In Brief

Covid-19 rebels emboldened by Boris Johnson’s lockdown confusion

PM apologises for not understanding new coronavirus restrictions in North East

Boris Johnson’s admission that he “misspoke” when wrongly describing new regional rules has quickened the growing Conservative revolt over coronavirus restrictions.

The prime minister issued a public correction after he wrongly said people in the North East could mix with other households in a pub, but rebel MPs said the gaffe had “strengthened the argument” for greater parliamentary oversight of new rules, The Telegraph says.

Tory rebels leapt on Johnson’s confusion “to press home their demand for votes in Parliament on future national lockdown measures”, the paper continues. 

One Tory MP in the North-East said that “what happened with Boris only strengthened the argument for greater Parliamentary scrutiny of new rules”. 

“He can’t work out what the rules are because there is no logic to them. It’s creating confusion and it’s causing the public to lose faith in the government’s handling of the pandemic,” they added.

Former chair of the influential 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, has tabled an amendment that would give parliament the final say over the imposition of further Covid regulations, after backbenchers complained Johnson was ruling by “diktat”.

Brady “held discussions last night with Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Commons, over a compromise [that] would give MPs a vote before or immediately after rules came in”, The Times reports. More talks are expected today, but The Telegraph says that the rebels are confident “they had secured major concessions”. 

Ex-chief whip and Brady ally, Tory MP Mark Harper, said that “if there’s no compromise… and there’s a vote on [Brady’s] amendment, the government will lose, I think that is certain, which is why I’m hopeful that there will be a compromise”.

And in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, former chair of the European Research Group, Steve Baker, this morning “gave a clue as to the possible basis of a deal between ministers and backbenchers”, The Guardian says.

Baker said there is a “common understanding” that the government must be able to “retain the capacity for swift and effective action” and that “we shouldn’t be creating opportunities for vexatious opportunism from the opposition parties”.

But he suggested that ministers have acknowledged the need for “prior approval of measures, major measures on a national scale, and indeed I think on a regional scale, which take away people’s liberties”.

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