The lockdown rebels of Boris Johnson have gone silent. But it’s not going to be for long


It had all the makings of a horror show when Boris Johnson addressed his party in a Zoom speech this week. The day before, the prime minister had announced a third national lockdown for England – an action he once compared to a nuclear deterrent and previously said by his lockdown-skeptical backbenchers would lead to a huge triple-digit rebellion. Over the past six months, Johnson’s relationship with his party has been severely strained by the restrictions on Covid, which are opposed by t t

He was accused by MPs at the last lockdown in November of pushing the United Kingdom closer to a “authoritarian coercive state” and failing to live up to his alleged church values. But something unusual happened at the 45-minute discussion this week. The Q&A session was not used by a single Tory MP to complain about the seven-week lockdown proposed, which will be almost as severe as the one imposed last March.

Instead, questions focused on whether, without parliamentary consultation, it could run longer, on the introduction of vaccines and on mitigating the impact of school closures. Compared to the meetings a few months ago, it was a different world,’ says one conference call participant. The conventional wisdom in November was that the rebellion on the issue would only increase – already large enough to destroy the majority of 80 of the prime minister.

A combination of factors has led to a change in the attitudes of Tory MPs towards lockdown measures, from the vaccine to new evidence on the spread of the virus. While there is still no love for the restrictions, this time around there is a sense that they may be necessary. This lockdown, the most vulnerable need more protection | Mishal KhanContinue reading “Don’t expect a lot of talk about freedom in the coming weeks,”

There are fewer die-hard libertarians in a pandemic where a million people are infected. Initially, the vaccine was not enough to convince the backbenchers of the party that the correct approach is tough suppression. The new version has changed that. “The data coming in is hard to refute,” says one minister. While in the past, cabinet meetings were marked by debates over the sevens between the hawks and doves.

There was unanimity at the Covid-O meeting on Monday and subsequent conference call with MPs: the figures that are now being compared with those from March were seen as especially alarming. Those who pushed for tough measures from the beginning like to point out that late the chancellor, Rishi Sunak – once considered the top anti-lockdown hawk – was comparatively quiet. This shift is re re

And even they admit that they don’t have the numbers to bring about a policy change. The MPs who support the restrictions were often the Tory party’s quieter part.

But in recent weeks, they have become more vocal. Neil O’Brien has become a vocal critic of those who oppose Covid, taking on social media tasks with his party colleagues. Pragmatists can see that the situation has changed and that means that our position also has to change, says one MP who voted against the second closure. Others even put it more bluntly. “We’re not headbangers,” one declares. “The data in the past has been dubious, but this time things seem different, and there is also a vaccine route out of indefinite closures. “If Boris Johnson cared about schools, he would have fired Gavin Williamson | Rafael Behr alreadyRead moreFor these reasons, anti-closure MPs are largely turning their attention to the next fight, rather than fighting the old one. In the forthcoming discussion on when to end the restrictions, their new goal is to ensure that their voices are heard. Next month, Mark Harper – the leader of the Covid Rehabilitation Association – released a call for the government to relax the restrictions. This group’s questions about Zoom to Johnson focused on what the UK could gain from Israel’s fast eggs.


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