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MP rebels and Covis variant causing Boris Johnson a headache


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All Prime Ministers have bad weeks but the past seven days have been particularly dismal for Boris Johnson, who came to office vowing to confound the doomsters and gloomsters and found out that a fair few of them are in his own party.

Whatever way you look at it, the PM is tackling some nasty political rapids that could capsize him if he fails to navigate a safe route out.

It's been a very hard week for Boris Johnson Picture: Phil Noble/PA
It's been a very hard week for Boris Johnson Picture: Phil Noble/PA

Short of cancelling Christmas - and let’s face it, some still fear that is possible and plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants think it already has - it is difficult to know what else he could do to make himself more unpopular.

You can, of course, argue that events have conspired against him. The Downing Street grid would not have necessarily included the emergence of a new Covid variant; neither would it have plotted for new tightened restrictions to come in days before a tricky by-election.

So, the question is whether he is now so damaged and has seen his authority so diminished that he will soon be getting a visit from the men in grey suits suggesting he does the honourable thing.

The Conservative party has a reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to dumping leaders who are seen as losers; Johnson himself benefited from the demise of the hapless Theresa May.

The size of the rebellion over Covid restrictions tells us something about the mood of MPs - not quite mutinous but pretty grumpy.

"The Conservative party has a reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to dumping leaders who are seen as losers..."

Of the five MPs in the county that lined up in the lobby to vote against their own party, the two that were unexpected were the Ashford MP Damian Green and Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat.

Both said they had done so because of their scepticism that the measures were practical - notably the ‘vaccine passes’ element.

The main fear for the PM lies in the fact that a rebellion of this scale may embolden backbenchers in future votes.

As to the electoral ramifications for Labour and the Lib Dems in Kent? That’s hard to say - Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader has described the outcome as “a fundamental realignment of British politics, a generational shift, in which the default setting of “vote Tory” has been reset.”

That may be over playing it - but given the Lib Dems overturned a majority that had made the seat one of the safest in the country, was to be expected

But however sensational a victory it was, it was secured when the Tory party was mired in sleaze claims; parties that breached lockdown rules and under fire over new Covid restrictions.

Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone (53525516)
Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone (53525516)

CANCELLED…The latest Covid crisis sparked something of less tumultuous rebellion at County Hall this week.

There was supposed to be a full council meeting and a plan was hatched to ensure it could go ahead. Normally, these meetings are attended by all councillors but because of the rules and guidance on Covid, it would not have been possible for all to attend.

So it was suggested that each party have a smaller number attending to create the social distancing space required.

The idea went down like the proverbial lead balloon, especially among Conservative backbenchers, who set great stall by these meetings even though they are largely meetings at which nothing is really decided.

The debate about what to do next led to a decision to cancel the meeting.

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