Pressure mounts on Johnson – Tory MPs rebel on Covid laws, Labour leads in poll

Downing Street Westminster

Tory MPs have warned Boris Johnson to expect “certain” defeat in the Commons this week if he defies their demands to have a say on lockdown laws.

More than 50 Conservative MPs have publicly backed a rebel bid to force Johnson to require MPs assent before introducing any new lockdown measures.

The pressure is building on the prime minister with Labour confirming they will back the amendment and a poll published today showing Keir Starmer’s party ahead in a new poll.

Support for the Conservatives has fallen to 39% according to the poll by Opinium for today’s (Sunday) Observer, which puts Labour on 42% – the first time the opposition has led in polling since an anomaly in July 2019 put Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour ahead of Theresa May’s embattled Tories.

Labour lead Tories in poll

The poll provides more grim reading for the PM with only 30% of voters surveyed now approving his government’s handling of the pandemic, compared to 65% approval earlier this year.

Labour’s lead is a huge overturning of the 26-points enjoyed by the Conservatives just six months ago and reflects in the performance of the party leaders. Starmer enjoys a four-point lead over Johnson on who the voters surveyed believe would make the best PM. Johnson’s personal approval ratings have fallen from -6% two weeks ago to -12% now.

The PM’s ratings may be further hit by his own backbenchers and their rebellion to ensure parliamentary oversight on any new lockdown measures introduced by the government.

PM ‘has all but given up the fight’

The Sunday Telegraph reports the growing number of rebels “reflects a growing disgruntlement among Conservative MPs at Mr Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, and in particular the economic damage caused by lockdown measures.”

The amendment – which must first be selected for debate by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle – has been tabled by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee and proposes that future restrictions under the Coronavirus Act are debated on voted on by MPs.

Intriguingly, the Telegraph say the PM “has all but given up winning the fight with the rebels” because party whips has put “not pressure at all” on MPs to fall in line.

David Davis – former Brexit secretary under Theresa May – summed up the PM’s predicament, saying: “Any Tory government that ignores an amendment tabled by the chairman of the 1922 committee is off its rocker.”

More rebels add to Johnson’s woe

Johnson faces further woes away from Westminster with reports of a growing rebellion among Tory councillors against his plans to speed up housebuilding in England.

Conservative leaders in councils have expressed growing concern about the government’s plans to increase house building targets. While the impact on the countryside is a major worry, the Guardian quotes a document from Winchester council that warns the proposals are “are clearly designed to reduce [the] number and type of decisions taken locally”.

A recent poll of Tory councillors found more than 60% believe the plans to shake up Britain’s house building sector would make the planning process less democratic.

Reform of the English planning system was set out in a controversial white paper published in August. The proposals will grant developers immediate outline planning permission for schemes that fit the local area plan and will see new construction zones permitted on unprotected farm and openland.

PM’s plans are ‘undesirable and undeliverable’

The poll of councillors found 70% of Conservatives actually want to extend greenbelt, which is contrary to the Tory government’s plan to make it easier for developers to build on it.

“If the government is going to deliver on its commitment to fundamentally reform the planning system, it is going to have to put in some serious spade work, to win round those Conservative councillors who provide the bedrock of their member of parliament’s constituency association and who clearly value their role in controlling development,” said Andrew Howard, managing director of planning communications company BECG.

Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire council, Martin Tett told the Guardian plans for an extra 1,000 homes every year in his county were “undesirable and undeliverable”.

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