When asked if the government will have to rely on Labour to get its new Covid plan through Parliament, Environment Secretary George Eustice said 100 Tory MPs have ‘concerns’ over PM Johnson’s tier restrictions and could oppose it.
Speaking to Sky News, Eustice acknowledged “There is great frustration with the emergency measures that we have had to take to deal with this pandemic…There could be 100 or so people who have got concerns but the Prime Minister and other ministers will be working very hard to reassure them.”
The scale of the unrest on the Conservative benches could spell trouble ahead of Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons on the new Covid-19 restrictions for England. With a majority of 80, the government will need the opposing Labour Party’s backing if only 40 Conservative MPs rebel against Johnson’s proposal.
In order to quell the rebellion, the environment secretary said the prime minister will need to show concerned MPs and people across England that there is a clear route out of the cycle of lockdowns and tiered restrictions.
In the same interview, Eustice refused to rule out the possibility of a third national lockdown next year, after families have gathered for Christmas, warning that the ongoing pandemic is a rapidly developing situation.
However, he suggested that, providing that the country maintain the tiered approach for “as long as necessary,” the government can see a way out of this situation by early next summer, following the rollout of the vaccine.
The comments from the environment secretary come as new research shows that coronavirus infections dropped by almost a third in England during the second national lockdown. The report from Imperial College London’s React study saw a 30 percent drop in Covid-19 cases over a fortnight, with high-risk areas, such as the North East and North West, seeing infections fall by more than half.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of Imperial’s programme, suggested these figures will bolster the government’s argument that lockdowns and tiered systems help lower cases.