Boris Johnson will reportedly face the largest rebellion of his premiership this evening. There are four votes on the Government’s ‘Plan B’ scheduled today’: one on mandatory mask wearing; another on daily testing for Covid contacts; one on Covid certification; and one on mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff.
The most contentious issue for the group of rebel Conservative MPs, is the introduction of Covid certification checks at nightclubs and large events, with suggestions that up to 100 MPs could vote against this proposal.
The UK Health Security Agency’s recent estimates that there are currently 200,000 daily Covid infections, would certainly suggest that tougher restrictions are warranted. The Conservative MPs who have vocalised their opposition to the proposed measures have cited different reasons for doing so including: the process being bad lawmaking, there not being enough data to justify the restrictions, not enough assurances around protecting the economy, and for some, the infringement on civil liberties.
This rebellion itself is unlikely to change the result of the vote, with Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, confirming last night that his MPs will be voting in support of the tougher regulations, stating that a politician’s priority should be the “health, safety and security of our nation and its people”.
It would therefore appear that playing political games is not as commonplace as PMQs would have us believe, with Johnson’s blushes being spared tonight by Starmer. Yet, another internal rebellion is still troubling for a Prime Minister who is seeing his grip on power beginning to look like it might be wavering.
What is abundantly clear, is that Covid is once again back on top of the political agenda (and indeed in Westminster itself with many MPs announcing today that they’ve tested positive). The Prime Minister will look to put stories of sleaze and Christmas parties behind him and get on with running the country. This week has seen him return to what has historically been safe grounds for the Government: vaccines.
The Government has outlined an ambitious target of every adult to be offered a third booster jab by the end of the month, in an attempt to tackle the threat of the Omicron variant.
With concerning recent polls and discontent amongst his own MPs, this could be a pivotal time for the Prime Minister. Will we see another much-needed vaccine bounce? Or will a stretched booster programme and rising infection rates see his credibility thrown further into question?