Boris Johnson’s majority threatened in vote on coronavirus powers

Boris Johnson in a mask

Boris Johnson is facing the growing prospect of a defeat on his plans to extend the emergency coronavirus laws after Labour joined more than 40 Conservative MPs in indicating support for a rebel plan to force a vote on powers.

Labour sources indicated on 25 September that it was likely the party will back a proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Act tabled by influential Tory Graham Brady who is trying to force greater parliamentary scrutiny for the restrictions.


The backing increases the chances the prime minister could be defeated in a Commons vote during the six-month review of the powers scheduled for 30 September. Senior Conservatives and Labour MPs are among those to have added their names to the amendment from Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbenchers.

If Speaker Lindsay Hoyle selects the amendment that would ensure the Commons gets to debate and vote on new measures and if the 40 MPs rebel, the prime minister’s near 80-strong majority would be put in jeopardy.

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Conservative former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, Damian Green (who was effectively deputy PM under Theresa May), liaison committee chairman Bernard Jenkin, Bob Neill, and former Brexit secretary David Davis are among those backing Brady’s amendment.

DUP MPs and the chair of the Labour parliamentary party John Cryer are also supporting the move.

No compromise

But No 10 did not signal it was willing to make a compromise on the legislation.

A Downing Street spokesman said:

We’ve been clear throughout that it’s rightful we can take action to stop the transmission of the virus and protect the NHS.

Both houses have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise all lockdown regulations

Support was growing for the amendment despite the prime minister pledging greater opportunities for MPs’ scrutiny as he set out new coronavirus restrictions this week. Tom Tugendhat and Huw Merriman, the chairs of the Commons foreign and transport committees respectively, have both voiced their support for the amendment in the past 24 hours, along with former Wales secretary David Jones.

Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

You can give various blanket permissions in emergency ways but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to come and ask for permission as soon as is practical.

It’s quite clear that there’s at least another six months of it as the Government has announced and it may indeed be longer than that depending on whether a vaccine comes or not, so the idea that we can have a permanent state where the Government is making emergency decisions for people and effectively controlling the lives of 65 million people by fiat is not sustainable.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Sorry how do 40 MPs threaten an 80 majority? Is this how the illusion of representative democracy works in 2020? This government’s reactions to the ONS figures, which are a week behind events, do not make sense. It’s curious that the figures produced by the ONS are then couched in terms that try to justify policy decisions that are, to say the least, inconsistent. Let the parliamentary pantomime continue… our celebrity culture can then add the sycopated sychopancy needed to firm up Bozo’s rambling response.

    2. If 40 move from one side to the other, i.e., vote against rather than abstain, it evens up the votes. Take 40 off one side and add it onto the other, the difference is 80, so removing all the majority.
      Of course, if 50 voted against it would be even better.

    3. Bozo Brigade: 365 seats, out of 650, from 46% of the votes cast in 2019.
      650-365=285 (opposition from 54% of the votes cast in 2019!)
      365-40=325 (govt without 40 MPs)
      285+40=325 (opposition+tory rebels)= pantomime
      pantomime=illusion of democracy (free and open society)

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