At least three rebel Conservative MPs threatened to resign from the Government over the decision to hike National Insurance to pay for social care, The Telegraph can reveal.
The Government whips' office was forced to telephone furious Red Wall MPs and parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) over the weekend to threaten their political careers, after they said they would rebel against the Government in Tuesday’s National Insurance vote.
Dozens of Conservatives could abstain or vote against Mr Johnson on Tuesday’s bill, which will increase National Insurance payments for both employees and firms by 1.25 percentage points.
Downing Street was on Monday night accused of trying to "rush through" the bill in an attempt to head off a more significant rebellion, while other MPs complained the Tory whips' office was using "hardcore bullying" tactics to keep members in line.
Jonathan Gullis and Sara Britcliffe, both Red Wall Conservative MPs who were elected in 2019 and have since taken jobs as PPSs, were understood to be on the brink of resignation over the weekend before No10 convinced them they should remain in post.
PPSs are unpaid and are not members of the Government, but act as ministers' informants on the back benches to gauge the mood of the party. They are required to support the Government in votes.
A third PPS is understood to have agreed to vote for the national insurance rise after they were told on Sunday morning that ministers had decided to scrap plans for vaccine passports .
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, announced the scheme had been shelved less than two hours later on a broadcast round.
Two further PPSs had threatened to resign over vaccine passports, The Telegraph has been told.
"The whips have come across pretty hard to the PPSs and 2019 intake across the board and said: 'You’re not going anywhere if you don’t vote for this'," one MP said.
Another described Downing Street's whipping operation at the weekend as "pretty rough".
The threats to junior MPs who joined Parliament at the last election came as several senior backbenchers prepared to rebel on the plans.
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, who abstained last week, signalled he may vote against the proposal.
“The PM is trying to rush this through to stop people discussing it properly. There is a great deal of hostility to it,” he said
Sir John Redwood, a prominent low-tax Tory, said: “I will certainly not be voting for it. I will either abstain or vote against.”
David Davis and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, both former Conservative cabinet ministers, on Monday night said they were undecided on whether to vote for the bill.
“Frankly, the more I look the more concerned I am,” Mr Davis told The Telegraph.
Johnny Mercer, a former defence minister, said he would abstain because he believed the social care measures should be paid for by a rise in income tax, not national insurance.
"I think people would expect that if we ask for money from them there should be reform involved," he added.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, on Monday gave the clearest indication yet that his party would fund social care reform through capital gains tax, not a levy on earnings like income tax or national insurance.
"Our analysis is that you could raise this money in other ways, whether that's capital gains tax, whether that's on properties, stocks and shares or dividends," he said on a visit to Bermondsey, while accusing Mr Johnson of "hammering working people" with the insurance rise.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats will vote against the increase.
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