Boris warned of massive rebellion over any Covid rules extension – leadership threat looms

Boris Johnson confirms government is sticking with Plan B

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Boris Johnson, 57, has had a tumultuous few months inside Number 10. The Prime Minister faced a major 100-strong backbench rebellion, lost the once safe seat of North Shropshire and has seen his public support slip following reports of Downing Street Christmas parties.

On his return to the Commons, Mr Johnson updated MPs on the COVID-19 situation.

Speaking at the despatch box, Mr Johnson said: “In response to the latest data, the Cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick with Plan B for another three weeks, with a further review before the regulations expire on January 26.

“People in England should carry on working from home whenever they can, wear face coverings on public transport and in most indoor public places, and take a test before going to high-risk venues or meeting the elderly or vulnerable.

“All of these measures are helping to take the edge off the Omicron wave, to slow the spread of infection, to manage the immediate pressures on our NHS and to buy time for the boosters to take effect.”

But within just days of the Prime Minister’s statement, Mr Johnson has yet again found himself facing Covid-related pressure from his own backbenches.

Mark Harper, 51, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group and former chief whip, cautioned the Prime Minister he could face a Conservative revolt even larger than the one in December if he fails to bring so-called Plan B coronavirus restrictions to an end by January 26.

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Mr Harper, who entered the Commons as the MP for the Forest of Dean in 2005, told the Financial Times: “I think there will be even more people against it.”

He added: “I think the intellectual argument now is even weaker.”

But Mr Harper also warned 2022 could bring a leadership challenge against Mr Johnson.

When asked by the Financial Times if he thought Mr Johnson’s position could be brought into question if the Tories suffered setbacks in the local elections, Mr Harper said: “I do.”

The Prime Minister celebrated enormous gains last time out after taking control of an extra 13 councils, increasing their councillors by 235 and gaining the once safe Labour seat of Hartlepool.

However, Mr Johnson has since lost two once safe seats to the Liberal Democrats and has seen the Labour Party overturn the Tory lead in the opinion polls.

The Forest of Dean MP, who sits on a 15,869-vote majority, also claimed Conservative MPs would start to question whether they would be able to cling onto their own constituencies.

“They will look at polling and consider who is the person best able to help keep them their seats,” he said.

“Conservative MPs have asked themselves in the past and decided they need to do something about it.

“Prime Ministers are on a performance-related contract.”

But Mr Harper, who stood against Mr Johnson for the Conservative Party leadership in 2019, added: “It’s in his hands.”

A recent YouGov survey of 1,005 Tory members for Sky News found support for Mr Johnson within the Conservative base has waned in recent months.

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Some 46 percent now believe Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, would be a better leader and could win the party more seats at the next general election.

Only 16 percent believed Mr Sunak could do worse and 30 percent argued he would perform the same.

The opinion poll also found more than a third of members now think Mr Johnson should stand down as leader.

Just 59 percent think he should remain as Tory leader.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, also registers strong support in the survey.

However, she found herself trailing Mr Sunak by 8 points when members were asked which Tory should replace Mr Johnson as leader.

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