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15 December 2021

The Conservatives have become the anti-lockdown party – and that’s a problem for Boris Johnson

It is hard to see how any Conservative Prime Minister would be able to sign off another lockdown and remain in post afterwards.

By Stephen Bush

More than 100 Conservative MPs rebelled against Boris Johnson last night: 100 voted against further coronavirus restrictions, while several more were absent without leave.

The most important thing to note about this rebellion is its breadth: MPs from essentially every tendency and every intake across the Conservative party voted against further restrictions.

Yes, part of the reason for the rebellion’s size is general dissatisfaction with Johnson and his style of leadership in the parliamentary party. But it’s also about a general turn in the Conservative party against the use of restrictions and non-pharmaceutical interventions full stop.

It tells us two things. The first is that Boris Johnson’s longterm leadership remains under considerable pressure, and that even a narrow win in North Shropshire is unlikely to draw a line under the affair. (Not least because there are still further stories about potential law breaches in today’s Mirror.) But the second – and more important given that we still don’t know what the impact of the Omicron variant will be on healthcare capacity – is that it is hard to see how any Conservative Prime Minister would be able to sign off another lockdown and remain in post afterwards.

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