What scale of Tory rebellion is Boris Johnson facing in tonight's vote? Depending who you ask, the number of likely Tory rebels ranges from anywhere between 40 and 100. The estimates on the higher end of the spectrum are being dismissed by some Tory MPs as an attempt by government figures to lower expectations so the real number appears small by comparison. However, whatever games are being played, it's clear there is growing concern in Downing Street over the scale of the rebellion.
Coffee House understands that Tory MPs have been invited to an impromptu meeting with the chief whip Mark Spencer and the Prime Minister at 6 p.m. this evening — ahead of the vote. Due to social distancing, MPs are to join via a Zoom link where Spencer will chair the discussion. It comes after concessions from the government — in the form of the impact assessment and the promise of future votes to renew to measures — failed to quell the rebellion. The debate on the tiers this afternoon has so far been dominated by Tory MPs voicing their displeasure at the policy, as well as the manner in which it has been presented.
Labour's plan to abstain means the system will be approved even if the rebellion approaches three figures. However, Johnson and his team are aware of the dangers of a scenario where Labour support gets a Tory Prime Minister across the line. The problem the Prime Minister faces when it comes to his Zoom audience is that there is already such a high level of distrust within his party. Many Tory MPs are no longer willing to take him at his word on Covid promises.