Boris Johnson's decision to impose a third national lockdown in England has won approval in the Commons by an overwhelming majority – with 524 MPs voting for the measures to just 16 against. It comes after only a handful of Tory MPs suggested they would oppose the lockdown measures in the debate on the issue today.
This means that the new national lockdown will be in place for at least seven weeks – with many MPs expecting it to roll on longer. However, while the legislation allows for the lockdown to remain in place until the end of March, Johnson has signalled to MPs that he will return to the Commons for a vote if that is deemed necessary by the government. The tighter measures come as the number of patients in UK hospitals with Coronavirus passes 30,000 while 1,041 new deaths have been reported today – the highest daily figure since April.
Over the past few months votes on new restrictions have become more dramatic with the Tory rebellion generally growing each time – the last lockdown vote saw over 50 Tory rebels oppose it. So, what has changed this time around? It's down to a combination of factors. For many lockdown sceptic MPs, the data this time on cases and hospital admissions is worrying, while the hope in the form of approved vaccines means that there is a sense this really could be the last national lockdown.
Tellingly, the bulk of MPs opposed to strict restrictions have moved their attention from fighting lockdown to the next battle on vaccinations. They believe their energy is best spent preparing for the coming debate on how many people need to be vaccinated before all restrictions can be lifted.