Boris Johnson’s “tiers" we’ve all got so used to memes about may be over sooner than we thought.
As you may have heard, the prime minister has told Conservative MPs in a new letter that if they support the lockdown tier system, it may be over by 3 February.
Current lockdown is set to end on Wednesday, and the tiers system is due to replace it, but it seems it may be short lived.
This is because many Tory MPs are not into the tiers at all, which appears to be worrying for the prime minister. He’s trying to avoid a rebellion which could jeopardise his plans by offering an option to roll back lockdown measures early next year.
Why don’t some Tory MPs support the tier system?
According to Sky News, more than 60 Conservative MPs have “voiced their unhappiness” or said they are “unlikely to support the measures" in a vote.
The criticism is largely due to the negative impact it could have on the economy, as well as potential scepticism that the measures will actually work.
Steve Baker, who you might remember as the former chairman of the so-called European Research Group, is now the deputy chairman for the “Covid Recovery Group”, which has spoken out against lockdown restrictions.
Baker compared lockdown to “authoritarianism”. Others raised concerns about whether people would just “skip over the boundary” from a Tier 3 area where everything is shut, to a Tier 2 area where a pub might be open, for example.
It’s this pushback that Johnson is trying to manage with his letter, which was described by the BBC as a “dramatic intervention”.
Why does this matter to Boris Johnson?
The Conservatives have an 80-seat majority in the commons, meaning that if the number of disgruntled Tory MPs were to rise, Johnson would be reliant on Labour votes to get his measures through. But Labour hasn’t officially backed him.
In a letter to MPs last night, he basically told them that following the vote on Tuesday – which Johnson is still expected to win – they’d have another say in January, and that the whole thing could automatically come to an end in February if a “sunset clause” is introduced.
He’s trying desperately to get his MPs on side here, by promising them that he will revisit the issue imminently.
What does this actually mean for us?
Johnson has also written a column for the Mail on Sunday, in which he essentially pleads with the public to stick to the rules, saying that rejecting them means “we will simply tangle ourselves in the last barbed wire, with disastrous consequences for the NHS."
On social media, the PM’s plan has not gone down well, with people accusing him of being “opportunistic” and caring more about appeasing Tory rebels than protecting the safety of the country.
Boris Johnson dithers helplessly between following scientific advice and bowing to Tory MPs’ rage over Covid restri… https://t.co/llfXzud58Y
So does that mean tiers will definitely end in February?
No. It just means that there is no guarantee they will continue.
The system expected to be in place as of Wednesday puts every region in one of three lockdown tiers: medium, high and very high. But 99 per cent of England will reportedly be in the highest two tiers, which basically mean there is still no mixing of households indoors, and strict restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Here is a complete run-down of what each tier means, in case you’re still (understandably) a little confused.
In summary, the “tiers” will be introduced on Wednesday, but don’t make (or break) any plans for the new year just yet, if you can avoid it.
And in case you missed it, another 479 coronavirus deaths in the UK were announced yesterday, taking the total to 58,030.