The Daily Telegraph
Curfew under threat as Tory revolt grows
BORIS JOHNSON’S 10pm coronavirus curfew in pubs, restaurants and bars could be thrown out after it emerged that dozens of Conservative MPS were prepared to vote against the measure.
The rebel MPS, who are due to meet today to plot their next steps, have been emboldened by comments from Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, questioning the wisdom of the measure.
Conservative backbenchers have also been encouraged by Labour’s refusal to say if it will support the curfew until it has seen the scientific evidence that underlies it. A decision by Labour is not expected until tomorrow. There were rumours last night that Government whips might even pull tomorrow’s curfew vote to allow more time to work on bringing the rebels to heel.
That came after Matt Hancock said a fiasco that allowed almost 16,000 coronavirus cases to become lost in tracking systems “should never have happened”. The Health Secretary stopped short of an apology as he blamed blunders – which occurred when spreadsheets were unable to cope with high numbers of cases – on aged computer systems. As many as 48,000 contacts may not have been traced, with Labour warning that thousands were “blissfully unaware” they had been exposed to Covid.
Ministers have to ask MPS to approve lockdown measures in simple unamendable yes/no votes in the Commons within weeks of them coming into force.
Two votes on lockdown restrictions in England are expected in the next 48
hours: one tonight on the rule of six that limits gatherings, which came into force on Sept 14, and a second tomorrow night on the 10pm curfew, which has applied nationally since Sept 24.
While only a handful of Tory MPS are likely to rebel on the rule of six, dozens more are expected to try to vote down the curfew.
Rebel Conservatives – emboldened after last week forcing the Government to give MPS a veto on future measures – said yesterday that they could muster the necessary 43 Tory MPS to vote with Labour to overturn the Government’s 85-working majority.
One Tory MP said: “My sense is that a material number of MPS might vote against the 10pm.” Another rebel said: “If it transpires that Labour is going to oppose it then I would think there would be enough of us who would be inclined to vote against it.”
Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister who last week acted as an unofficial whip for Tory rebels, said: “There is a growing consensus that neither the 10pm curfew nor including children in the rule of six are well evidenced. I expect quite a few Members of Parliament to take issue on those two points.”
Sir Graham Brady, who is expected to rebel, told the BBC that patience was starting to “wear thin” with the Government’s local lockdown restrictions.
Yesterday Mr Sunak said of the 10pm curfew: “Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.”
Asked if Mr Johnson agreed, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “He does understand the frustrations of the public.”
Last night Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health secretary, refused to say whether Labour would support the 10pm curfew. He said: “The Government needs to produce public health evidence for this measure.”