No prime minister wants to be dependent on the opposition to get the government’s business through the House of Commons. But this is the position Boris Johnson will likely find himself in when it comes to ‘Covid status certificates’, I argue in the magazine this week.
More than 40 Tory MPs have already signed a pledge to oppose vaccine passports, and the government’s majority is 80. ‘It is just down to Starmer. If he whips against, Boris will lose,’ says one of the leaders of the Tory rebellion. The policy has hit a nerve in the Conservative party. Tory opponents of Covid status certificates see them as a step towards identity cards and a shift in the balance of power between the individual and the state. Those against the scheme think the alternative is a return to normal life and the status quo ante.
But advocates in government think the choice is between venues being open with these conditions in place or remaining shut. They think that you couldn’t open a nightclub with no social distancing without some other prophylactic. Or that you couldn’t have a pop concert with thousands of people present unless you knew that everyone present had either had one dose of a vaccine, a negative test or natural immunity from a previous infection.
Labour are sounding sceptical of vaccine passports at the moment. But considering the worries among scientists about a spike in cases as restrictions ease, it is hard to imagine Labour opposing them wholesale: would they really be against passes being used for big pop concerts and sporting events? This means they are still likely to be introduced in some form.
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