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Boris Johnson's lockdown rebels have gone quiet. But it won't be for long

5 19 45

When Boris Johnson addressed his party this week on a Zoom call, it had all the makings of a horror show. The prime minister had, the day before, announced a third national lockdown for England – an action he had once likened to a nuclear deterrent and one that his lockdown-sceptic backbenchers had previously said would lead to a huge three-figure rebellion.

Over the past six months, Johnson’s relationship with his party has come under severe strain over the Covid restrictions, which are opposed by the Conservatives’ libertarian wing. At the last lockdown, in November, he was accused by MPs of pushing the UK closer to an “authoritarian coercive state” as well as failing to live up to his supposed Churchillian values.

Yet on this week’s 45-minute call something unusual happened. Not a single Tory MP used the Q&A session to quibble with the proposed seven-week lockdown, which will be nearly as strict as the one imposed last March. Instead, the questions were focused on whether it could run longer without parliamentary consultation, the vaccine rollout, and mitigating the consequences of shutting schools.

“It was a different world compared to how these sessions went a few months back,” says one attendee on the call.

The conventional wisdom in November was that rebellions on the issue – already big enough to demolish the prime minister’s majority of 80 – would only grow in size. But ahead of last night’s vote, aides in No 10 were the most relaxed over the numbers they have been for some time.

A combination of factors, from the vaccine to........

© The Guardian

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