Nearly 100 British Conservative MPs rebel against PM Johnson

Nearly 100 British Conservative lawmakers voted on Tuesday against new COVID-19 restrictions, dealing a major blow to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authority and raising questions about his leadership.

After a day of failed lobbying, PM Johnson was handed the biggest rebellion against his government so far by his party over measures he said were necessary to curb the spread of the new Omicron mutation.

The new rules, which included ordering people to wear masks in public places and use COVID-19 passes for some venues, passed thanks largely to the main opposition Labour Party.

But the revolt piles pressure on Mr Johnson, already under fire over scandals such as reported parties in his Downing Street office last year - when Britain was in a COVID-19 lockdown - and a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Rebelling lawmakers said the vote was a warning shot that he needed to change how the government was operating, or he would face a leadership challenge.

Some 99 Conservatives opposed plans for the COVID-19 passes, a much higher number of rebels than expected. Originally the official figure was put at 98, but the number was later revised upward.

Among those voting against the government was lawmaker Louie French who was only elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) at the start of the month, while media reported that former PM Theresa May was among 17 others who abstained.

Many Conservatives say some of the new measures are “draconian”, with several questioning the introduction of a certificate of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter some venues, such as nightclubs.

Others used the votes as an opportunity to vent their anger at the PM Johnson, believing the man who helped the Conservatives win a large majority at a 2019 election is squandering the party’s successes by self-inflicted missteps and gaffes.

Despite the rumblings of discontent, Conservative Party insiders say there is not enough of a groundswell against the Prime Minister to dislodge him now, although they hope the vote will be a “wake-up call” for the PM to reset his agenda.

“He [PM Johnson] has got to now be in some danger,” Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a Conservative lawmaker, told Sky News.

“He has got to realise that because if he does not realise that, then he will be in much bigger danger... I am still backing him. But he has got to change,” he added.

On Tuesday, Britain reported 59,610 new COVID-19 infections, the highest figure since early January and the fifth highest recorded since the outbreak of the pandemic.