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As England is preparing to come out of its second national lockdown tomorrow, MPs will be voting on the tiered approach outlined by Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight. More than 99 percent of the country will be in the two highest tiers.
But as Mr Johnson faces a Tory revolt over the new approach, Conservative MPs will join the Prime Minister in a crucial Zoom call.
Katy Bells, deputy political editor at the i Paper, tweeted: “As Tory MPs raise concerns in the Chamber ahead of tonight’s vote, Conservative MPs have no been invited to a Zoom where Chief Whip will host a meeting with the Prime Minister – 6pm tonight.”
The new tier system has been widely criticised by MPs and members of the public, with many claiming they are now in a higher tier than before the lockdown started four weeks ago.
A letter by the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) signed by 70 MPs last week underlined significant opposition to the tiers and more MPs had joined the rebellion last weekend.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee which represents the Conservative Parliamentary Party, made it clear he will not back the Government.
He said: “These regional tiers should be revised and applied on a more local district or borough basis, to make sure there’s some connection between infection rates and restrictions of people’s lives.”
Esther McVey, the founder of the Blue Collar Conservatism movement, pointed to a study by Bristol University which estimates that 560,000 people will be killed by lockdown measures.
The MP for Tatton said: “We have to ask ourselves if the cure is worse than the disease.”
This crucial Zoom meeting comes just hours after Sir Keir Starmer ordered Labour MPs to abstain from voting.
He said: “Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions.
“We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow.
“However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.
“We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months.
“It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.
“It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.”
A No10 spokesman said of Sir Keir’s announcement: “This pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades, and Labour have decided to abstain on it.
“While Keir Starmer claims he offers new leadership, it’s clear to all that he actually offers no leadership at all.
“Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people.
“We will continue to engage, listen and work with MPs who have concerns.
“Our Covid Winter Plan provides a stable and consistent approach which will steer the country through to the spring.”
Under the new tiered system, much of the hospitality industry will not be able to open in Tier 3 or will be extremely limited in Tier 2.
London boroughs have been placed in tier 2 despite some areas having high R rates compared to other regions in the country, according to the latest Government figures.
Places like Greater Manchester and Lancashire will have the harshest tier imposed from December 2 despite their R rate being lower than the capital.
More to follow…
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