How real is the rebellion against the end of democracy in Britain?

Jon Snow tells Matt Hancock: “You know nothing”

“Nobody in the country knows what is going on, nobody in parliament knows what is going on and you have no idea of what is going on.”

Channel 4 anchor Jon Snow tore into Matt Hancock last night in a rare outburst on live TV.

Ministers have been forced into crisis talks with the ringleader of a Tory revolt as Boris Johnson seeks to head off a damaging row over the scrutiny of coronavirus regulations.

The Prime Minister is under mounting pressure to give Parliament greater power to debate and vote on coronavirus restrictions, with more than 50 Tory MPs signalling they could rebel on the matter.

TAP – Is this just one actor giving his script while the other pretends to listen?  Is the Parliamentary rebellion against the end of democracy in Britain real?  Or simply more fake behaviour from MPs trying to get their snouts in the Ministerial trough?  We have to hope it is not the case.  And that P{parliament will regain control and repeal the Coronavirus Acts which permit a Police State to take over in the UK, with all rights removed.  Where were MPs when it was rushed through the Houses in April?

Coronavirus Act

MPs will vote on Wednesday on whether to renew the powers in the Coronavirus Act, with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, leading calls for ministers to consult Parliament before introducing new curbs on people’s freedoms.

Some 52 Conservatives publicly back the amendment, enough to wipe out Mr Johnson’s Commons majority if it is put to a vote and the opposition parties support it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock agreed to meet Sir Graham “to see what further progress can be made” on the issue, saying the Government was “looking at further ways to ensure the House can be properly involved in the process in advance where possible”.

“I strongly agree with the need for us in this House to have the appropriate level of scrutiny,” he told MPs.

But he said the Government had to have the ability to act quickly where necessary.

“Parliament has been sidelined”

Former Cabinet minister Chris Grayling told Mr Hancock: “Before we embark upon measures that affect everyone, as opposed to firefighting in individual areas, it is really important that this House has the chance to really scrutinise and hold to account and challenge.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The question is how we can have the appropriate level of scrutiny whilst also making sure that we can move fast where that is necessary.”

Conservative rebels seized upon an assessment by academics at University College London (UCL) which concluded that “Parliament has been consistently sidelined during the pandemic”.

The pandemonium was picked up by Snow last night in a clip that soon went viral on social media.

He said: “Nobody in the country knows what is going on, nobody in parliament knows what is going on and you have no idea of what is going on – even in the cabinet”.

Watch the exchange below:

At the same time, the Government is negotiating with the large band of Tory rebels who want the House of Commons to have a greater say over any new pandemic measures. Negotiations took place last night and are continuing this morning, with contradictory signals as to whether a deal is close or not.

It appears that Downing Street is willing to offer MPs a vote on new restrictions, but not in a way that would prevent ministers from acting rapidly to respond to the pandemic. That may mean votes don’t happen until after new laws have come into place.

– No small rebellion –

The Speaker is unlikely to allow any amendments to the motion renewing the Government’s emergency powers, which must be voted on today. That would mean that the rebels, who had tabled an amendment, would only have the nuclear option of refusing to renew those powers available.

Such a move appears unlikely (and would still need support from opposition parties), but No10 can’t afford to alienate 80 or more of its own backbenchers and so is working on a compromise anyway.

The rebellion received a shot in the arm yesterday when Johnson blundered and got his own coronavirus rules wrong in a press conference, confusing the “rule of six” with the much stricter restrictions in place in the North East.

That boosted their argument that the rules are confusing and arbitrary. Indeed, The Sun reports this morning that Downing Street will return to weekly televised press conferences to try and restore some semblance of order to the Government’s messaging.

– Next in line for a lockdown –

With infections still rising, after a brief dip over the weekend, it’s a row that will be of immediate consequence. Merseyside is set to be the latest area to enter a local lockdown, with Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, calling for a “circuit breaker” closure of pubs and restaurants.

London remains on the watchlist but is not yet facing lockdown. Johnson is reportedly reluctant to place the capital under tight restrictions for fear of the national economic consequences of doing so.

Either way, the next few weeks and months are likely to involve the Prime Minister placing greater restrictions on the country’s freedoms and granting greater powers to the police and others to enforce them. That makes the consequences of today’s wrangling with MPs considerable.

– An uncomfortable position –

What it would mean for Britain’s handling of the pandemic is unclear. Ministers haven’t covered themselves in glory so far, however many of the 80 or so rebels are sceptical of any coronavirus measures altogether, rather than their effective and democratic implementation.

That Labour is unlikely to oppose scientifically-backed measures means the Government would be unlikely to lose many fights in Parliament. But nor would Johnson want to find himself in a position of relying on Sir Keir Starmer while his own party discipline disintegrated.

That situation alone could leave the PM facing very uncomfortable choices between following scientific advice and keeping his party together.