Boris Johnson is facing a sizeable Commons Tory rebellion over the government’s coronavirus restrictions – including the 10pm curfew and “rule of six”.
Leading rebel Steve Baker said he does not expect to defeat the government, but instead get ministers to shift ground.
MPs will vote on Tuesday, the day the prime minister addresses the virtual Tory conference, on the regulations which enforce the rule of six in England in order to allow them to continue.
“Consensus among Conservative MPs seems to be around two points – that children should be excluded from the rule of six and that the 10pm curfew is not justified by evidence,” Baker told the PA News Agency.
“I wouldn’t expect to win a vote on either issue. The reality is we need to persuade the government on all these matters.
“With Labour and the SNP missing in action we won’t be defeating the government in any rebellions.”
Baker said hard negotiations were happening in order to “keep the Conservative Party together”.
Rebel sources said they expected health secretary Matt Hancock would indicate the two main sources of contention – the pub curfew and the rule of six – would be reviewed after going through Parliament in a bid to defuse the situation.
Baker said: “The reality is now that we are in to a long hard business of negotiating with the government trying to keep the Conservative Party together.
“And trying to persuade the government to have restrictions which don’t do more harm than good.”.
The disquiet on Tory benches comes as the government is embroiled in major controversy over the performance of the coronavirus test and trace system as thousands of positive coronavirus cases were initially not recorded in England due to a technical glitch.