Boris Johnson was warned he is in ‘real trouble’ today as Tory no-confidence letters near the ‘magic number’ of 54.
Former leader Lord Hague said the party was ‘moving towards’ holding a full vote on the PM’s future in the wake of Partygate – potentially as soon as next week.
Ex-Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom has become the latest senior figure to question Mr Johnson’s position this morning, accusing him of ‘unacceptable failures’.
Although she stopped short of openly calling for the premier to quit, some 27 MPs have now openly done so. Not all will have sent letters though – and a others might have registered their views privately.
Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 committee, must call a vote of no confidence when 15 per cent of Conservative MPs ask for one – making the threshold 54.
But he has broad discretion on when to announce the move and is not expected to do so when Parliament is in recess. In the past he has given Downing Street some advance notice.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson suffered another blow as a Savanta ComRes poll found Labour has extended its lead to 11 points in the wake of the Sue Gray report.
Rebels are downbeat about their prospects of winning a contest even if one happens. More than half of the Tory benches would need to oppose Mr Johnson, and he still has significant support.
Under current party rules, if the PM sees off the challenge he cannot face another confidence vote for a year.
But one senior MP pointed out that Theresa May won a confidence vote during her premiership, and was later forced to quit – saying Mr Johnson would need a huge victory to be safe.
‘You are holed below the water line,’ they told MailOnline. ‘It is just how long it takes for the ship to sink.’
Other MPs pointed out that the Partygate revolt is far less organised than the Brexiteer insurrection against Mrs May, and that operation found it almost impossible to track how many letters were in.
Graham Brady (right), chair of the powerful 1922 committee, must call a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson (left) when 15 per cent of Conservative MPs ask for one – making the threshold 54
A Savanta ComRes poll has found Labour extending its lead to 11 points over the past week
Former leader Lord Hague (right) said the party was ‘moving towards’ holding a full vote on the PM’s future. Ex-Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom (left) has become the latest senior figure to question Mr Johnson’s position this morning, accusing him of ‘unacceptable failures’
Mr Johnson is under new pressure after the Sue Gray report on Partygate, which included photos of his 56th birthday in the Cabinet Room
How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?
What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader?
Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.
How is that triggered?
A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.
A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.
Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are.
What happens when the threshold is reached?
A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs
But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.
What happens if the leader loses?
The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.
However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected.
Arts minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay was sent out to broadcast studios to defend the government this morning.
He dodged on the prospect of a confidence vote, saying it is ‘pointless speculating about something unless or until it happens’.
In a letter to her constituents, Dame Andrea said the ‘extent and severity’ of the rule-breaking in No 10 exposed in the Sue Gray report meant it was ‘extremely unlikely’ the senior leadership did not know what was going on.
‘The conclusion I have drawn from the Sue Gray report is that there have been unacceptable failings of leadership that cannot be tolerated and are the responsibility of the Prime Minister,’ she said.
In the message, shared on social media, she stopped short of directly calling on Mr Johnson to resign and did not say whether she had submitted a letter calling for a no confidence vote.
But Dame Andrea said: ‘Each of my Conservative colleagues and I must now decide individually on what is the right course of action that will restore confidence in our Government.’
Lord Hague told Times Radio: ‘Well I think Boris Johnson is in real trouble here and when an MP as reputable, as experienced, as respected as (Sir) Bob Neill who we were just listening to gives that opinion, that he’s just given, that’s very serious trouble for the Prime Minister and I think the Sue Gray report has been one of those sort of slow-fuse explosions in politics.
‘It’s still going along, a lot of people misread it really, the events of last week as meaning the trouble is over, Boris is free and that’s actually not the mood in the Conservative Party which is very, very troubled about the contents of that report.
‘So I think the Conservative Party will need to resolve this one way or another, obviously because to be an effective party they either need to rally behind the Prime Minister they’ve got, or they need to decide to force him out and I think they’re moving towards either next week or around the end of June, they are moving towards having a ballot, it looks like that.’
The trickle of Tories urging Mr Johnson to consider his position threatened to turn into a stream yesterday, after Parliament went into recess and politicians took the temperature of their constituents.
Conservative Andrew Bridgen emailed his North West Leicestershire constituents yesterday to say he has resubmitted his letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson following ‘further revelations over the past week’, which saw the publication of the long-awaited Sue Gray partygate report.
He originally submitted a letter in January 2022 but withdrew it in March, arguing it was not appropriate to hold a confidence vote amid the fighting in Ukraine.
Earlier, former attorney general Jeremy Wright said events in Downing Street had caused ‘real and lasting damage’ to the Government’s authority and that he had concluded ‘with regret’ that Mr Johnson should go.
Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn, who was elected in 2019, confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the PM some time ago.
And a fourth Tory MP, Nickie Aiken, suggested Mr Johnson should submit himself to a confidence vote to end the ‘speculation’ over his future.
Meanwhile, Tory chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, reportedly said he had made his position on the matter ‘clear to those who need to hear it’.
The backbench MP, who previously said he was open to running for the Tory leadership, was quoted as criticising Mr Johnson, but did not appear to call for him to resign.
Sir Bob Neill, chair of the Justice Select Committee, said it is in both the party’s and country’s interest for Boris Johnson ‘to move on’.
Explaining why he submitted a letter of no confidence on Friday, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst told Times Radio: ‘I promised I’d wait until I’d seen the whole of the Sue Gray report and all the explanations that the Prime Minister gave.
‘I looked at them and I didn’t think it was credible that he could escape responsibility for what was not just a one-off incident, but a course of conduct, a repeated culture of breaking the rules in 10 Downing Street over a period of months, and on that basis and the feedback I picked up very strongly in my own constituency and the results that we saw there in the local elections where lots of traditional Conservative voters were saying to me ‘I’m sorry but we’ve lost faith in the PM, we can’t support you whilst he’s there’.
‘I took the view that it was in the party’s interest and actually the country’s interest for him to move on.’
Lord Parkinson told Sky News: ‘Well there’s an awful lot of speculation about the numbers of letters that go in and past experience shows, not just then but before, the only person that knows how many letters that have been sent in is the chairman of the 1922 Committee (Sir Graham Brady).
‘It’s pretty pointless to speculate about the numbers before then, it’s a distraction from the work of Government and in Government we’re getting on with making sure that we grow the economy to help with the cost of living.’
He added: ‘It’s pointless speculating about something unless or until it happens.’
Mr Johnson was the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll
Source by www.dailymail.co.uk