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PM Boris Johnson passes new COVID-19 measures, triggering party fracture

By Jake Thomas
PM Boris Johnson passes new COVID-19 measures, triggering party fracture
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the 2021 Conservative party Conference in Manchester in October. On Tuesday, Johnson rankled many in his party by pushing through a package of new COVID-19 measures. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shepherded a package of new COVID-19 measures through Parliament Tuesday evening, but at the cost of rankling a large swath of his own party.

In response to surging COVID-19 cases, a majority of the House of Commons voted in favor of public masking, mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and requiring a COVID-19 pass for entry to nightclubs or large events, reports Sky News.

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The vote comes a day after Johnson said a person had died from the new Omicron variant of the virus and warned of a new "tidal wave" of cases.

However, 40 Conservative members of Parliament voted against the masking requirement and 100 voted against the COVID-19 pass.

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"Now the prime minister has really got to think very carefully about how he's going to reset his performance to actually govern with a united party, because we all know what happens to disunited parties," Conservative Member of Parliament Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, told Sky News.

He said the vote signaled a "major division" within the Tory party and that Johnson must realize he's in "some danger."

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The number of Conservative votes against the measures is larger than Johnson's majority of 79 and exceeds the 56 members needed to call for a vote of no confidence, reports the Guardian.

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The votes come as Johnson faces heightened scrutiny over a lobbying scandal and revelations of hosting a gathering in violation of lockdown rules. Although the measures passed with support from the opposition, Johnson's opponents still criticized his leadership.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told the paper that Johnson is the "worst possible leader at the worst possible time."

"The prime minister needs to ask himself the question whether he has the authority to lead this country through this pandemic," he said.

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Some Conservative members of Parliament are openly considering a leadership change. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, an official with an influential group in Parliament, told the Guardian that a challenge to Johnson is "on the cards" if he doesn't "change his approach."

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