News World UK British Conservative MPs rebel on virus passes

British Conservative MPs rebel on virus passes

britain omicron vaccine pass
Some UK MPs want to "draw a line in the sand with regard to any further erosion of civil liberties". Photo: Getty
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Almost 100 Conservative MPs have rebelled against the British government in a vote over introducing COVID-19 passes for some venues and events in England.

Parliament approved COVID-19 passes by 369 to 126 but 96 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives voted against the measure and two further Conservatives acted as tellers on the “no” side of the vote.

Eight Labour MPs, 10 Liberal Democrats, six DUP, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Independent MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Rob Roberts also opposed the regulations, according to the division list.

After a day of frenzied lobbying, Mr Johnson failed to thwart a rebellion against measures including ordering people to work from home, to wear masks in public places and use COVID-19 passes to enter some venues.

The measures passed, thanks largely to the opposition Labour Party.

But the revolt piles pressure on Mr Johnson, who is already under fire amid scandals such as reported parties in his Downing Street office last year when gatherings were banned under a coronavirus lockdown, and a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Many of his MPs say some restrictions are draconian, with several questioning the introduction of a certificate of vaccination or proof of a negative virus test to enter some venues, such as night clubs.

Others used the votes as an opportunity to vent their anger at Mr Johnson, believing the man who helped the Conservatives win a large majority at a 2019 election is squandering the party’s successes by self-inflicted missteps and gaffes.

But despite the rumblings of discontent, Conservative Party insiders say there is not enough of a groundswell against Mr Johnson to dislodge him yet, with no potential challenger commanding enough support to replace him.

“Boris on a bad day is better than any of the other wannabes on a good day,” said one veteran Conservative who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Before the series of votes on the measures, Mr Johnson warned his cabinet of top ministers that there was a “huge spike” in Omicron cases heading Britain’s way and that the measures were necessary to protect people.

“The PM (prime minister) said a huge spike of Omicron was coming and the measures we aim to introduce as part of plan B were balanced and proportionate, helping to reduce transmission while we ramp up the booster program,” his spokesman said.

Britain has registered almost 4500 cases of Omicron, with 10 people hospitalised.

On Monday, Mr Johnson said one person had died after contracting the variant.

Ministers tried to win over the Conservative rebels, saying that people who have not been double-jabbed can instead offer proof of a negative lateral flow test to gain access to indoor venues of more than 500 people.

But several remained unconvinced, with one, Andrew Bridgen, saying some MPs were determined to “draw a line in the sand with regard to any further erosion of civil liberties and freedoms”.

Conservative former minister David Johnson described the move to introduce COVID-19 passes as “quite wrong”.

“People should certainly be encouraged to have the vaccine… but ultimately people have to take responsibility for their own health,” he told Reuters.