Divining the intention of a question to the Prime Minister from a Conservative MP is an art rather than a science. But by our calculation 13 Conservative MPs yesterday supported an earlier lifting of the lockdown, in at least some respects, and 35 did not in response to Boris Johnson’s statement on his proposed roadmap out of lockdown.
On the one hand, that 14 will have been an understatement of the number of Tory MPs who believe that the restrictions should be removed faster. Some will simply have stayed away; others won’t have wanted to embarrass the Prime Minister; others will be waiting their moment.
On the other, some of the 14 had specific rather than general concerns about the pace of events. For example, Greg Clark asked specifically about outdoor activities.
So one must balance off the one against each other in the vote on the restrictions that the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday will come before Easter: that’s a loose way of referring to what will be, strictly, speaking a vote on maintaining emergency powers. And even some of those who wanted a faster lifting of lockdown may not prepared to vote for a lifting that moment in time.
By our calculation, those who suggested an earlier end to restrictions, at least partially, were:
- Theresa May.
- Iain Duncan Smith.
- Andrew Griffith.
- Greg Clark.
- Graham Brady.
- Mark Harper.
- Bob Neil.
- Craig Tracey.
- Steve Brine.
- Desmond Swayne.
- William Wragg.
- Paul Bristow.
- Mike Wood.
That’s just over a quarter of those Tory MPs who spoke. A quarter of 365, the total number of Conservative MPs, would be 91. But we don’t believe for a moment that 91 Tory MPs will vote against extending emergency powers next month.
Even if they did, more Conservative MPs would support than oppose them, and opposition support for the roadmap, or abstentions, would guarantee a renewal of the emergency powers.
The biggest Covid-related Conservative backbench revolt to date was the vote on tiering of December 1 last year – which saw 53 Tory MPs vote against the Government.