What went wrong for Boris Johnson in Tory revolt – and what that means next

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Boris Johnson’s position is looking increasingly under threat after he suffered the largest Tory rebellion – since the 2019 General Election – as his latest national Covid restrictions were voted on by MPs in the House of Commons. With the support of Labour the measures passed but the outcome is likely to concern the Prime Minister, should he need to introduce tougher rules later down the line. So, what exactly went wrong for Mr Johnson last night and what implications does this have for his leadership moving forward?

On Tuesday night a series of votes were held in the House of Commons to decide whether or not to pass Mr Johnson’s Covid restrictions, which he announced last week.

Over the course of the session a majority of MPs voted to approve the following:

• The extension of mandatory face mask-wearing to most public indoor venues in England
• The mandatory use of the NHS COVID pass for entry into nightclubs and large events
• The relaxation of self-isolation rules for those who are a contact of an Omicron case, with the use of daily testing instead
• Compulsory COVID vaccinations for frontline NHS and social care staff

However, the measure to introduce NHS Covid passes was only able to be approved thanks to the support of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

On this particular restriction, 100 Conservative MPs rebelled and voted against the Prime Minister.

The number was much larger than most pre-vote estimates and the rebels came from all factions of the Conservative Party, including former cabinet ministers, brexiteers and remainers.

Iain Duncan Smith, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey are examples of Tory MPs who voted against Mr Johnson during last night’s vote.

In fact, the recently elected MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, Louie French, also went against Mr Johnson – having only taken the seat within the last fortnight.

Mr French later explained that he had made “a clear pre-election pledge that I would not support COVID passes for our domestic economy and voted accordingly”.

Many of the MPs who voted against introducing NHS Covid passes had previously expressed concerns that the restriction would undermine public trust.

Mr Johnson has also faced revolt from Tory MPs after allegations emerged that a number of Christmas parties took place in Downing Street, last year, that were a breach of Covid regulations.

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An investigation has since been launched by the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, to explore the accusations in further detail.

Throughout Tuesday the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid and the Government’s Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, had attempted to ease concerns that were held by politicians.

However, their efforts were in vain and the PM could now face a difficult situation should he look to introduce tougher Covid rules as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly throughout the UK.

Even if it meant recalling Parliament from its Christmas recess the PM is expected to give MPs the chance to vote, in the Commons, on further measures should they be required.

Nonetheless, any vote could belittle his support further, and some fear this could be a sign the PM is on his way out very soon.

Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to the Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, said this week: “It’s not the end for him, but I think it’s the beginning of the end. The problem is that these crises have a cumulative effect.

“As soon as he ceases to be an asset and the party is facing an election, they’ll get rid of him.”

Bookies, Betfair, has it at 11/1 that Boris could quit before the year is out, and evens he’ll leave his post in 2022.

Spokesperson Sam Rosbottom said: “Betfair Exchange’s political punters have spoken and they now believe the pressure on the PM will ratchet up again as the odds of the previously safe North Shropshire seat turning yellow shorten again to just 4/7.

“In the past week, the odds for Boris Johnson to quit this year have tumbled from 149/1 to just 11/1 and there’s now more chance of the PM stepping down before 2021 is out than ever.”

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