As case numbers (PCR test positives which are not really cases at all – TAP) rise, the PM faces increasing hostility towards any restrictions. Yesterday, 12 Tory MPs, led by Sir Graham Brady, voted in the Commons against the “rule of six”. The Government won easily, with Labour abstaining, but those 12 represent the hardcore of what could be a much bigger rebellion on other measures.
The 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants is a particular target and the Government pulled a vote on it last night. Labour’s leadership sent ambiguous messages on its intentions for the vote, spooking Downing Street into delaying. The Opposition’s stance may owe something to a number of its local government leaders who have come out against the curfew.
Lockdown sceptics also received a boost today with the publication of a letter signed by 2,500 medics and scientists calling for the end of blanket measures and for vulnerable people to be protected instead. The scientists are not in the mainstream of medical opinion, but the letter will only energise those campaigning against restrictions.
The major unanswered question on Downing Street’s attitude towards further restrictions is how other top Cabinet figures feel about it. Christopher Hope reports this morning that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is against tighter measures and is manoeuvring to reduce the influence of “doves” such as Michael Gove on coronavirus decision making. Figures close to the Chancellor have strenuously denied the report.
– Preempting or just reacting? –
What it all means for the Government’s pandemic strategy is unclear. For weeks now, Johnson has been expected to launch a three-tiered “traffic light system” which would simplify local restrictions and create a standardised framework for their implementation, but it still remains to be announced.