Boris Johnson is bracing himself for a damaging Tory rebellion as MPs vote on a new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England.
The government is expected to win Tuesday’s Commons vote on the new rules – which are due to come into effect the following day – after Labour said it would abstain.
Sir Keir Starmer – who has previously backed government measures – said while his party had “serious misgivings” it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a “serious risk”.
However, with scores of Conservative MPs deeply unhappy at the extent of the restrictions, the vote is likely to throw Tory divisions into sharp relief.
Many backbenchers are furious their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown which ends on Wednesday.
At a No 10 news conference, health secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped some areas could be moved into lower tiers when the restrictions come up for their first fortnightly review on December 16.
But scientists advising the government have made clear they see little scope for any widespread easing before Christmas.
It could mean most areas of England will go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.