Tory MPs warn Boris Johnson against 'lockdown by stealth'

Tory MPs warn Boris Johnson against ‘lockdown by stealth’ as several ministers’ aides plot to QUIT and dozens of backbenchers vow to vote against Plan B in Commons

  • More than 60 Tory backbenchers are poised to oppose the new Plan B measures 
  • Proof of jab or a negative test will become mandatory for large venues this week 
  • The Prime Minister will avoid an embarrassing defeat thanks to Labour backing
  • But a host of key ministerial aides are threatening resignation ahead of the vote 

Boris Johnson was last night warned against imposing even more stringent coronavirus curbs ahead of a Commons showdown tomorrow.

More than 60 Tory backbenchers are poised to oppose the Plan B measures to counter the threat of the Omicron variant – the biggest rebellion of Mr Johnson’s premiership. 

The restrictions will see proof of vaccination or a negative test become mandatory for large venues this week, and today the return of work from home guidance.

The Prime Minister will avoid an embarrassing defeat with the measures set to be voted through thanks to backing from Labour, but Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and Maggie Throup, the Vaccines Minister, are said to have been scrambling to limit a rebellion that could involve dozens of Conservatives.

It comes as several Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) are threatening resignation, with the Telegraph reporting that a group of 10 parliamentary secretaries formed a WhatsApp group to discuss how to vote on the new measures.

MPs in the PPS group include two of Communities Secretary Michael Gove’s three ministerial aides – Danny Kruger and Angela Richardson – along with two of the three ministerial aides to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab – Joy Morrissey and Mike Wood.

Many MPs are fearful the Prime Minister may impose even stricter curbs before Christmas, but officials are already drawing up a Plan C which would see the return of ‘checking in’ to a pub or restaurant, using masks in all indoor spaces and having to show a vaccine status at even more venues. 

More than 60 Tory backbenchers are poised to oppose the Plan B measures to counter the threat of the Omicron variant – the biggest rebellion of Mr Johnson’s premiership

The UK Covid alert level was raised from level 3 to level 4 after the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant 

 

Conservative party MP Danny Kruger – PPS to Michael Gove – is believed to be part of a WhatsApp group of rebel PPS discussing how to vote on new restrictions

Tory MP Angela Richardson is also thought to be among the group of rebel PPS

Joy Morrissey, PPS to the deputy prime minister, joined the group of PPS who may rebel

Who is in the rebel PPS WhatsApp group? 

  • James Sunderland (PPS to Defence secretary Ben Wallace)
  • Danny Kruger (PPS to Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove)
  • Angela Richardson (PPS to Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove)
  • Joy Morrissey (PPs to Justice secretary Dominic Raab)
  • Mike Wood (PPS to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab)
  • Claire Coutinho (PPS to Chancellor Rishi Sunak)
  • Gareth Bacon (PPS to Work and Pensions secretary Therese Coffey)
  • Jonathan Gullis (PPS to Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis)
  • Gagan Mohindra (PPS to Home Secretary Priti Patel)
  • Katharine Fletcher (PPS to Cop26 minister Alok Sharma) 

Source: The Telegraph 

Tory former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said last night he believed Plan B was a ‘stepping stone’ into another lockdown – and accused ministers of moving ‘without the facts’ on Omicron.

He branded the proposals ‘unnecessary’ and ‘damaging’ and said further restrictions would ‘only amplify those effects’, adding it ‘feels like’ a lockdown by stealth.

Conservative Peter Bone told the Daily Mail vaccine passports ‘are nothing more than an identity card’ and do not work.

‘Testing is the way if you want to stop people (spreading Covid).’

‘The problem is we are halfway between two things: the Government has done a bit by what they call Plan B – but in a way Plan B is a stepping stone to a lockdown. We cannot lockdown again. Schools cannot shut,’ he said.

Backbencher Henry Smith said Plan B was a ‘danger to our civil liberties’ which would ‘severely impact’ economic recovery prospects. He added: ‘I think it is yet further distraction from other health conditions which require attention – such as the cancer backlog – and I don’t actually think (the restrictions) work.’

He branded the proposals ‘unnecessary’ and ‘damaging’ and said further restrictions would ‘only amplify those effects’, adding it ‘feels like’ a lockdown by stealth.

Conservative Peter Bone told the Daily Mail vaccine passports ‘are nothing more than an identity card’ and do not work.

‘Testing is the way if you want to stop people (spreading Covid).’

Rebel ringleader Steve Baker accused the Government of creating a ‘miserable dystopia’ and suggested his party was drifting into authoritarianism

The above map shows the ten areas that have the most confirmed and suspected Omicron cases in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency. West Northamptonshire is the country’s hotspot for the mutant strain, although eight in ten areas on the list are in London

The restrictions will see proof of vaccination or a negative test become mandatory for large venues this week, and today the return of work from home guidance (pictured)

WFH

The return of work from home guidance. People will be told to work from home in England from Monday if they are able to.

Face mask

Face masks will be made compulsory in most public indoor venues including in cinemas and theatres from this Friday. They will not be required in pubs, restaurants and gyms.

Vaccine passports 

The NHS Covid pass will be compulsory to gain access to nightclubs and other large venues where large crowds gather. 

This will apply to all unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.  

This requirement will be rolled out in one week’s time to give businesses time to prepare. 

Contact testing 

Contacts of Omicron cases will be told to take daily coronavirus tests instead of having to self-isolate. They will have to quarantine if they test positive. 

Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen slammed Plan B as ‘a complete overreaction not supported by the science or the data’.

‘I’m not voting for Plan B, I didn’t even vote for Plan A, and I certainly will not be supporting any further removal of freedoms from British citizens over a mild variant with a very low hospitalisation rate.’

Rebel ringleader Steve Baker accused the Government of creating a ‘miserable dystopia’ and suggested his party was drifting into authoritarianism.

He said at least 60 Tories will vote against Plan B but it was a ‘foregone conclusion because our useless opposition in name only will continue to support the Government, however authoritarian they are’.

‘This disease will now be with us forever, there will be new variants, the vaccine continues to give a high degree of protection against serious illness and death and we just do now need to get on with our lives,’ he told Sky News.

‘We’ve got to show that there’s a movement for that frame of mind because if we don’t, the Conservative Party will continue to drift into authoritarianism and I simply cannot stand idly by while that happens.’

Tory whips will today continue their attempts to quell the revolt, and were engaged in a ‘massive ring round’ over the weekend.

But despite the scale of the rebellion, Plan B is expected to become law as Labour will support the measures tomorrow.

Sir Keir Starmer said the party will vote with the Government – not to support the Prime Minister but the NHS.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted yesterday the Government is not introducing a ‘vaccine passport’.

He told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘This is not a vaccine passport. These are high-risk events where we ask people either to take a free lateral flow test or to be vaccinated to attend.’

Mr Johnson was also warned of the impact the restrictions will have on hospitality. Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group which operates almost 50 pubs in London and the South East, said: ‘Revenue could take a hit of around 30 per cent – it would be hugely damaging and without government support many businesses will be tipped over the edge.’

Mask-wearing became mandatory in cinemas, theatres and places of worship on Friday, and work from home guidance returned today. 

Needing to show proof of vaccine status or a negative test will come into force for large venues from Wednesday.

Officials are already drawing up a Plan C which would see the return of ‘checking in’ to a pub or restaurant, using masks in all indoor spaces and having to show a vaccine status at even more venues

Boris Johnson launches massive drive to get a third jab into every over-18 by NEW YEAR’S DAY: PM begs everyone to get boosted to ‘save our way of life’ as he warns of a ‘tidal wave of Omicron’ on its way 

Boris Johnson has announced he is rapidly speeding up the UK’s coronavirus booster jab rollout as he warned the country: ‘There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.’

The Prime Minister delivered an address to the nation this evening as he said he is bringing forward his end of January target for every adult to be offered a jab by one month. 

It means that everyone eligible aged 18 and over will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year, with Mr Johnson urging people to ‘get boosted now’. 

Mr Johnson said the UK is ‘now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant’ and ‘we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe’. 

The PM said the data was now clear that two doses of the vaccine are ‘simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need’ but the ‘good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose – a booster dose – we can all bring our level of protection back up’. 

Launching what he described as the ‘Omicron Emergency Boost’, Mr Johnson said that in order to deliver the necessary jabs by the end of the year ‘we’ll need to match the NHS’s best vaccination day yet – and then beat it day after day’.

He said this will require ‘an extraordinary effort’ as he revealed some medical appointments will have to be postponed until 2022 so that clinicians can commit to administering jabs.       

Mr Johnson said ‘every adult over 18 who has had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago’ will be eligible for a jab from tomorrow. 

Approximately 20million people are likely to be eligible for the booster under the criteria which means the rollout will need to administer around one million jabs a day to hit the PM’s end of year target. 

The formal NHS Booking System will be open to the younger age groups from Wednesday but Mr Johnson said ‘in some places you can walk in from tomorrow’. 

In his address the Prime Minister said: ‘Over the past year we have shown that vaccination is the key to beating Covid and that it works

‘The UK was the first country in the world to administer a vaccine, we delivered the fastest rollout in Europe and we begun the fastest booster campaign too with over half-a-million jabs delivered yesterday alone.

‘These achievements made possible by the extraordinary efforts of our NHS, including thousands of GPs and volunteer vaccinators have literally saved countless lives and livelihoods in this country.  

‘But I need to speak to you this evening because I’m afraid we’re now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant Omicron and we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe. ‘ 

Mr Johnson also announced that 42 military planning teams are being deployed to every region of the UK to help with the rollout while additional vaccine sites and mobile units will also be stood up and opening hours for clinics will be extended so they run seven days a week.

The Prime Minister’s full speech

‘Over the past year we have shown that vaccination is the key to beating Covid and that it works.

 ‘The UK was the first country in the world to administer a vaccine, we delivered the fastest rollout in Europe and we begun the fastest booster campaign too with over half a million jabs delivered yesterday alone.

‘These achievements made possible by the extraordinary efforts of our NHS, including thousands of GPs and volunteer vaccinators have literally saved countless lives and livelihoods in this country.

‘But I need to speak to you this evening because I’m afraid we’re now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant Omicron and we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe.

‘Earlier today the UK’s four chief medical officers raised the Covid alert level to four  – it’s second highest level- because of the evidence that Omicron is doubling here in the UK every two to three days.

‘We know from bitter experience how these exponential curves develop. No one should be in any doubt there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming and I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.

‘But the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose – a booster dose – we can all bring our level of protection back up.

‘I know there will be some people watching who will be asking whether Omicron is less severe than previous variants and whether we really need to go out and get that booster and the answer is yes we do.

‘Do not make the mistake of thinking Omicron can’t hurt you, can’t make you and your loved ones seriously ill. We’ve already seen hospitalisations doubling in a week in South Africa and we have patients with Omicron in hospital here in the UK right now.

‘At this point our scientists cannot say that Omicron is less severe  and even if that proved to be true we already know it is so much more transmissible that a wave of Omicron through a population that was not boosted would risk a level of hospitalisation that could overwhelm our NHS and lead sadly to very many deaths. So we must act now.

‘Today we’re launching the Omicron emergency booster national mission unlike anything we’ve done before in the vaccination programme to get boosted now.

‘A fortnight ago I said we would offer every eligible adult a booster by the end of January. Today in light of this Omicron emergency I’m bringing that target forward by a whole month.

‘Everyone eligible aged and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year.

‘And we’ve spoken today to devolved administrations to confirm the UK government will provide additional support to accelerate vaccinations in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland.

‘To hit the pace we need, we’ll need to match the NHS’s best vaccination day yet – and then beat it day after day. 

‘This will require an extraordinary effort.And as we focus on boosters and make this new target achievable, it will mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the New Year.

‘But if we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year. And I know the pressures on everyone in our NHS – from our GPs, doctors and nurses to our porters – all of whom have worked incredibly hard and we thank them for the amazing job they have done.

‘But I say directly to those of you on the front line, I must ask you to make another extraordinary effort now, so we can protect you and your colleagues – and above all your patients – from even greater pressures next year.

‘So from tomorrow in England, we are opening up the booster to every adult over 18 who has had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago.

‘The NHS Booking System will be open for these younger age groups from Wednesday, and that’s the best way to guarantee your slot, but in some places you can walk in from tomorrow.

‘We will also assist this emergency operation by deploying 42 military planning teams across every region, standing up additional vaccine sites and mobile units, extending opening hours so clinics are open 7 days a week, with more appointments early in the morning, in the evening, and at weekends, and training thousands more volunteer vaccinators.

‘And we’ll set out further steps in the days ahead. It’s because of the threat from Omicron that I announced on Wednesday we will move to plan B in England.

‘You must wear a face covering in indoor public spaces. From tomorrow, work from home if you can.

‘And from Wednesday, subject to a vote in parliament, you’ll need to show a negative lateral flow test to get into nightclubs and some large events if you’re not double vaccinated.

‘These measures will help slow the spread of Omicron. But we must go further and get boosted now.

‘If you haven’t yet had a vaccine at all, then please get yourself at least some protection with a jab as quickly as possible.

‘If you’ve already had your booster, encourage your friends and family to do the same.      

‘We’re a great country. we have the vaccines to protect our people so let’s do it. Let’s get boosted now. Get boosted now for yourself, for your friends and our family. Get boosted now to protect jobs and livelihoods across this country. Get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.’ 

 

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