Tory Rebellion Against Sunak's Smoking Ban Fuels Leadership Speculation

Sunak's proposed smoking ban faces Tory rebellion, but passes Commons vote with Labour support. Highlights divide in Conservative party and potential for further instability.

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Ayesha Mumtaz
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Tory Rebellion Against Sunak's Smoking Ban Fuels Leadership Speculation

Tory Rebellion Against Sunak's Smoking Ban Fuels Leadership Speculation

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's proposed legislation to ban smoking for future generations has faced significant opposition from within his own Conservative party. The Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which aims to make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2009, passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons despite 57 Tory MPs voting against it and over 100 abstaining.

The rebellion was led by several potential future Tory leadership contenders, including Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and former minister Robert Jenrick. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss also voted against the legislation, along with several serving ministers. Critics argue the proposal would unfairly treat legally competent adults differently based on their age and could lead to further bans.

Why this matters: The scale of the Tory rebellion highlights the philosophical divide within the Conservative party and the potential for further political instability in the UK. The opposition to Sunak's agenda from prominent figures is seen as a way for leadership hopefuls to position themselves and appeal to the party's right-wing, libertarian-minded members.

Despite the opposition, the bill passed with a vote of 383 to 67, thanks to support from Labour MPs. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting stated it was only due to Labour that Sunak's plans were approved by the Commons. The government has defended the legislation as a way to protect the next generation from the harmful effects of smoking, which kills tens of thousands of people annually in the UK.

Conservative MP Richard Graham praised the bill as a "huge credit" to Sunak, while others like Nick Fletcher criticized it as evidence of a "nanny state". Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health said the bill is the first step in consigning smoking to the "ash heap" of history and called for it to be expedited to become law before the next general election.

Key Takeaways

  • Sunak's proposed smoking ban faces significant Tory opposition.
  • 57 Tory MPs voted against the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, over 100 abstained.
  • Rebellion led by potential future Tory leaders, including Badenoch and Braverman.
  • Bill passed with Labour support, despite Tory criticism of "nanny state".
  • Smoking ban seen as first step to consign smoking to "ash heap" of history.