Matt Hancock hints again that low-infection areas WILL be downgraded in two ...

Wounded Boris Johnson lashed out at 'General Indecision' Keir Starmer today for abstaining in the crunch tiers vote that saw a 55-strong Tory revolt.

At a bad-tempered PMQs, Mr Johnson vented his frustration at the Labour leader for 'failing to protect the people of this country' by getting behind the draconian curbs for England. 

The new tiers system came into force at midnight after the Commons approved it by 291 to 78 - but the healthy majority masked a disaster for Mr Johnson as a swathe of his own MPs abandoned him.

Scores of Tories joined the biggest uprising of this Parliament despite Mr Johnson personally waiting in the division lobbies and urging them to stick with the government, and he only secured victory because Sir Keir stopped short of opposing the measures.

In a sign the PM is not strong enough to confront the mutineers, the PM's press secretary confirmed this afternoon that they will not face any disciplinary action. 

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Mr Johnson had tried to win people over by vowing there will be a more 'granular' approach when the first review happens in a fortnight, after many MPs were infuriated that relatively coronavirus-free areas were being subject to harsh restrictions due to nearby hotspots.   

In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock again suggested that the implementation of the tiers will be more localised after December 16 - although Conservatives noted that he stopped short of making a firm commitment. 

Tory MPs have warned that Mr Johnson will be in serious trouble unless he follows through on the move.

'He is going to have a problem. There are people who are expecting it and they will be under pressure over Christmas if it doesn't happen,' one former minister told MailOnline. 

'He is looking to get through the next two weeks. He would like to think for the long term until March, but to keep the rebels happy he's had to put December 16 on the table.' 

Another senior MP pointed to the vote on renewing the tiers due in January. 'I think there will be even more people voting against if they feel there hasn't been a genuine effort to review on December 16,' they said. 

Mr Johnson could not contain his anger as Sir Keir goaded him about not doing enough to support jobs and businesses during the pandemic. 

'When it came to protecting the people of this country from coronavirus at this critical moment, he told his troops to abstain,' the premier said.

'Captain Hindsight is rising rapidly up the ranks and has become General Indecision.' 

But Sir Keir shot back by referring to Mr Johnson dodging the vote on expanding capacity at Heathrow Airport. 

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'When I abstain I come to the House and explain, when the Prime Minister abstains he runs away to Afghanistan and gives the taxpayer a £20,000 bill,' the Labour leader jibed. 

In other coronavirus news today:  

UK regulators today approved Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination to start in just days. The UK has ordered 40million doses;  Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer's tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip; England's lockdown is over and shoppers used their new freedom to queue outside Primark before dawn to grab pre-Christmas bargains on Wild Wednesday; Care home residents will finally be able to hug their families again, after ministers announced a national roll-out of rapid tests will mean relatives who are free of Covid will be allowed visits for the first time since March; Private hospitals received millions in funding this summer despite most around two-thirds of extra capacity going unused, according to leaked documents; The UK recorded another 13,430 Covid infections and 603 deaths yesterday as the second wave of the disease continues to tail off.

Boris Johnson said there was a 'compelling case' for the regional tiers as he faced a Commons showdown over his new coronavirus rules

Keir Starmer

Boris Johnson (left) could not contain his anger as Sir Keir Starmer (right) goaded him about not doing enough to support jobs and businesses during the pandemic. 

In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock again suggested that the implementation of the tiers will be more localised after December 16 - although Conservatives will note that he stopped short of making a firm commitment

In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock again suggested that the implementation of the tiers will be more localised after December 16 - although Conservatives will note that he stopped short of making a firm commitment

Dozens of Conservatives joined a mutiny amid fury that just 1 per cent of England has been put in the lowest level of restrictions, even though many areas in Tier 3 have seen few or no infections

Dozens of Conservatives joined a mutiny amid fury that just 1 per cent of England has been put in the lowest level of restrictions, even though many areas in Tier 3 have seen few or no infections

Who are the Tory MPs who defied Boris Johnson and voted against the tier system? 

Some 53 Conservative MPs defied Boris Johnson and voted against the Prime Minister's new coronavirus tier system. 

They are:  

Adam Afriyie (Windsor)

Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield)

Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)

Paul Bristow (Peterborough)

Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells)

James Daly (Bury North)

Philip Davies (Shipley)

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) 

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) 

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock)

Richard Drax (South Dorset)

Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)

Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) 

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil)

Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) 

Chris Green (Bolton West)

Damian Green (Ashford)

Kate Griffiths (Burton)

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) 

Philip Hollobone (Kettering)

David Jones (Clwyd West) 

Julian Knight (Solihull)

Robert Largan (High Peak) 

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) 

Chris Loder (West Dorset) 

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)

Anthony Mangnall (Totnes)

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) 

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) 

Esther McVey (Tatton) 

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle)

Robbie Moore (Keighley)

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)  

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) 

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) 

John Redwood (Wokingham)

Mary Robinson (Cheadle) 

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) 

Henry Smith (Crawley)

Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge)  

Desmond Swayne (New Forest West)

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) 

Matt Vickers (Stockton South)

Christian Wakeford (Bury South)

Charles Walker (Broxbourne)

Jamie Wallis (Bridgend)

David Warburton (Conservative - Somerton and Frome) 

William Wragg (Conservative - Hazel Grove)

Jeremy Wright (Conservative - Kenilworth and Southam)

A further two Tory MPs, Steve Baker and Robert Syms, acted as tellers for those MPs voting against the measures.   


Mr Hancock seized on news that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by UK regulators and will start being distributed next week, urging people not to let up on efforts to suppress the disease now. 

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if the government will break counties down into districts next time around, Mr Hancock said: 'Of course we will look at the country... according to the epidemiology, according to the human geographies of where people live and work.'

He pointed to Slough as an example of an area that had been split off in the last round of tiers. 

Pressed on whether the same could be done for Kent and Lancashire, Mr Hancock said: 'Where that is appropriate that is what we will do, absolutely.'

Challenged again if that will happen from December 16, he said: 'Yes. That is what we have done throughout these localised restrictions... But the thing is we want to keep this virus under control until a vaccine arrives.' 

The PM's press secretary said there would not be any consequences for the 55 Tory rebels.

Allegra Stratton told reporters: 'The Prime Minister is pleased that he won the vote last night and indeed that he was able to persuade quite a number of Conservative MPs to, in the end, not rebel.

'He listened to them and he, over the course of the last few days, gave them quite considerable concessions.'

She added: 'There are no consequences, the Prime Minister respects them, he respects that this was and is an extremely difficult decision.

'The balance is, for nobody, an easy one.'

Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.

The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier's authority continues to wane. 

Dominic Raab attempted to brush aside suggestions that the Government was worried about the scale of the revolt despite Mr Johnson personally begging dozens of Tories to fall into line as they went through the Noe lobby.

The Foreign Secretary instead took aim at Labour for abstaining from the crunch vote, saying tonight: 'We listened to MPs on all sides of the House, we passed this vote with a majority of over 200. 

'The most striking thing about these numbers is that the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer abstained on the biggest issue facing this country today as we go through this pandemic and he's got nothing to say about it, no leadership, he doesn't know what he thinks or what the country should do.'   

The day was spent desperately trying to peel off opponents, with the premier hinting that many low-infection areas could by brought out of the toughest tiers at the next review on December 16.  

He also offered a 'one-off' payment of £1,000 to 'wet' pubs – that do not serve food – this month as recognition of 'how hard they've been hit by this virus'. In a last-gasp Zoom call with mutinous Tories before the division, Mr Johnson warned they must not be like children in the back of a car saying 'are we nearly there yet?'

Winding up the debate, Health Secretary Matt Hancock choked back tears as he referred to the death of his step grandfather from Covid in Liverpool last month, and warned the government could not ease off the restrictions too much. 'We've got to beat this, we've got to beat it together,' he pleaded.

Earlier, MPs lined up in the House to slam the Government plans despite the PM urging them to back his 'compelling' case for his new post-lockdown tiers.Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price summed up the feeling for many by storming: 'These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.' 

The strength of feeling among critical backbenchers even led typically backbenchers to defy the PM, with former cabinet minister Jeremy Wright voting against the Government 'for the first time in 10 years'. There had been talk of up to 100 Conservatives ready to rebel – but the numbers were whittled down to an extent.   

A government spokesman said: 'We welcome tonight's vote which endorses our Winter Plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.

'This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control. We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.'

Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories, urged the government to 'take on board' the criticism. 'We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing,' the former chief whip said. 

The vote means most areas of England will now 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. 

As he wooed his restive party, Mr Johnson insisted that the government will be 'sensitive' to local situations - hinting that areas with low infection rates will not be lumped together in future with other nearby hotspots. 

He said the next review on December 16 will be conducted based on 'as much granular detail as we can'. 'We will try to be a sensitive as possible to local effort and local achievement,' he said.

MP said whips were working hard during the day assuring Conservatives with constituencies in high tiers that they will be downgraded within weeks, while London Tories were pushing for a private commitment that the city will not be upgraded to Tier 3. 

But Sir Keir warned Conservative MPs their hopes of being downgraded will be dashed, as Tier 2 will 'struggle' to hold infections down and Mr Johnson always 'overpromises and under-delivers'. 'That is not going to happen,' he swiped. 

The Prime Minister also tried to allay backbench fears for hospitality businesses by announcing that 'wet' pubs - which rely on drinks to make their living - will be entitled to £1,000 payments to help them get through this month.   

Many Tories were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the 'wheels were coming off' the policy. 

It is understood the government has another dashboard that includes more 'granular' information on 40 areas of the economy. Sources dismissed the idea it is 'secret', saying it only contains material already 'publicly available' - although they insisted it will not be published. 

UK is first country to approve Covid vaccine  

Britain's regulators today approved Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination to start in just days.

Officials said the jab — which the UK has ordered 40million doses of — will be made available 'from next week' as Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared 'help is on its way'.

Department of Health and Social Care officials made the announcement just after 7am this morning, as England left its second national lockdown and shops reopened for 'wild Wednesday'. 

Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine has been shown to block 95 per cent of coronavirus infections in late-stage trials, with equal efficacy among younger volunteers and those over 65 who are most at risk from Covid.  

Mr Hancock declared the end of the pandemic was 'in sight' today, revealing that 800,000 doses of the jab will be available next week — enough to vaccinate 400,000 people because it is administered in two shots — but conceded the bulk of the roll out won't happen until the New Year.

He said: 'The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week. The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.' Mr Hancock revealed those 'who are vulnerable from Covid' will be first in line, meaning care home residents and workers will be first to be contacted — despite claims NHS workers would be first. 

And Mr Hancock urged England to abide by the controversial three-tier lockdown system that came into force today after being approved last night, saying the end is 'in sight' and that 'we've got to keep people safe in the meantime'. He told BBC Breakfast: 'From Easter onwards, things are going to be better and we're going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.' 

Boris Johnson hailed the vaccine's approval this morning,

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