Boris Johnson faces a rebellion from up to 60 of his backbench MPs on Tuesday (December 14) over new Covid restrictions amid warnings the Conservative party is “drifting into authoritarianism”.
The prime minister addressed the nation on Sunday (December 12) night and laid out the risks to the NHS of the Omicron variant as he appealed to people to “get boosted now” to tackle a “tidal wave” of Omicron cases.
New Covid restrictions – including guidance to work from home and mask mandates – came into effect in England on Monday and MPs are set to vote through vaccine passport requirements on Tuesday.
However, Johnson is facing the biggest rebellion of his premiership and will require the support of Labour in order to get through the Plan B measures that have upset so many of his backbenchers.
Former minister and influential Brexiter Steve Baker MP, told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme he will be voting against mask mandates, vaccine passports and mandatory vaccinations as a condition of employment in the NHS.
‘We are creating a miserable dystopia’, says Baker
“I think what we are doing now is creating a miserable dystopia into which we are going forward,” said Baker.
“It is going to be at least 60 people voting against but of course, it’s a foregone conclusion because our useless opposition, in name only, will continue to support the government, however authoritarian they are.”
Covid “will now be with us forever,” said Baker, arguing “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.”
Sounding the alarm against the government tightening restrictions and the importance of freedom under the rule of law, Baker said: “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.”
UK’s Covid alert level raised to 4
In his Sunday night, pre-recorded televised address to the nation, Johnson promised that all adults in the UK will be offered a booster vaccine before the end of the year – a month earlier than originally planned.
The UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned the Omicron variant could result in 5,000 people being admitted to hospital each day.
The Covid alert level for the UK has been raised to 4 because the virus is in general circulation, transmission rates are high and “direct Covid-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising”.
Plan B may be just the start of more restrictions
When asked by Channel 4 News about data modelling that has predicted tens of thousands of deaths, Baker dismissed it, saying: “Unfortunately, they’re very often based on assumptions which are often wrong and pessimistic.”
Baker – the Conservative MP for Wycombe since 2010 – referred people to “the Spectator’s data website” where “they can see very clearly that these models time and again are far, far too pessimistic and wrong. But the costs on people’s lives are very, very real.”
Asked about his concerns that the government’s Plan B may be only the start of more restrictions, Baker said: “Well, we’re already seeing that rumour and this happens time and again. We get drawn into these things bit by bit with shifting goalposts, and that just won’t do for the British people.”
The Mirror reports that MPs have been told to prepare for a recall of Parliament on December 21 to vote on new measures, should the number of Omicron cases continue to surge.