MPs back all ‘plan B’ measures amid large Tory rebellion on Covid passes and mandatory vaccines – live updates | Politics

Just hours before the biggest rebellion of his premiership, one of Boris Johnson’s key allies was asked about the possibility of a challenge to the prime minister’s position. “It is a very difficult thing to do, as you may remember with the previous incumbent,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg, speaking on his Moggcast podcast on ConservativeHome.

It is indeed a tough hurdle to get more than 50 sitting Conservative MPs to submit no confidence letters in their leader and prime minister. But as in the case of Theresa May, ousted by Rees-Mogg and his allies, it is not insurmountable.

Anti-Johnson feeling on the backbenches is running high partly because of his botched handling of sleaze scandals and the furore over lockdown parties in Downing Street. However, an equally sizeable reason for discontent is rightwing, libertarian MPs unhappy with the ideological basis for Covid restrictions.

Rees-Mogg remains very loyal to the prime minister but at the same time made no attempt in his podcast to deny the existence of a mutinous mood within the Tory ranks in parliament.

The prime minister personally pleaded with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers to back his plan B measures before the vote on Tuesday evening. But nearly 100 Tory MPs directly challenged his authority by voting against Covid passports for entry to nightclubs and other large venues.

That means almost a third of all Tory MPs and most backbenchers have now put the prime minister on notice that they are extremely unhappy with the idea of further restrictions.

Since Brexit, the Tory party has thrown out its more centre-right, moderate voices. As a direct consequence, the main strain of opinion in the Conservatives is now inherently more lockdown-sceptic, freedom-loving, anti-mask than the party of David Cameron might have been.

If Johnson does need to opt for stricter, plan C measures in the face of a rising tide of Omicron, he will now find himself in the same position as May did over Brexit – attempting to rely on Labour votes in the face of a revolt on the right.

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96 Tories voted against PM on Covid passes, with two Tories as tellers, division list shows

In fact there were 96 Tory MPs voting against the government on Covid passes, plus two Tory MPs acting as tellers, according to the division list on the Commons website. There were also 10 Liberal Democrats, eight Labour MPs, six DUP MPs, two independent MPs and one Green MP voting against. The list is here.

That is all from me for tonight. My colleague Lucy Campbell is now taking over.

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