Boris Johnson is to face a confidence vote this evening after dozens of Tory MPs withdrew support for his leadership.
Critics of the Prime Minister seized on the Sue Gray report into lockdown-busting parties and the Prime Minister’s response to it as the trigger for submitting letters calling for a vote.
But discontent within the Conservative Party runs far wider, with concerns about the burden of taxation and Mr Johnson’s style of leadership also causing unease.
Videos of the PM being booed at various events during the Jubilee weekend have not helped the perception that he has lost public support.
A total of 54 letters of no confidence from Tory MPs, 15% of the parliamentary party, were needed to trigger the vote and they had been collected, reportedly before the Jubille events took place.
Now at least 50% of Tory MPs must vote “no confidence” for the Prime Minister to lose.
Assuming every Conservative MP casts a vote and nobody abstains, Mr Johnson will need 180 votes (half his MPs, plus one).
But even if Mr Johnson survives the vote on Monday evening, his leadership could be fatally undermined if a significant number of MPs vote against him.
Winning the vote could be the beginning of the end for the PM.
Nick Robinson tweeted: “Rules state that @BorisJohnson remains leader & is safe for a year if there are fewer than 180 votes against him tonight. History shows that PMs who “win” still end up losing – Thatcher resigned 8 days after winning, May within 6 months & Major lost to Blair in a landslide …”
Mary Riddell tweeted: “Boris Johnson faces vote of confidence today. Win or lose, his fate is sealed. This is a day of wholly-deserved disgrace for a PM who holds the truth, the people and the nation in contempt. As he now knows, the disdain is mutual.”
Journalist Tim Shipman has crunched the numbers and has outlined what the numbers could look like and compared them to previous no-confidence votes.
He tweeted: “CUT OUT AND KEEP: I’ve been crunching numbers in case of a vote of no-confidence to compare results If the rebels get: 121 votes: Johnson will have done as badly % wise as John Major in 1995 133 votes: Worse than May in 2018 147 votes: Worse than Thatcher v Heseltine in 1990.”
Will he lose?
The London Economic has spoken to a contact with very close links to the Conservative Party, who said that four MPs, that haven’t broken cover yet, are going to vote against the PM.
Of those four MPs, they all believe that after speaking to other close colleagues, they will also vote down the PM.
Backers have suggested that he is all but certain to win any ballot, as the “payroll vote” of 173 ministers and parliamentary aides is almost enough to get him past the threshold.
It comes as Boris Johnson should stay on as even if he only wins tonight’s no-confidence ballot by one vote, minister for Brexit opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg has said, contradicting what he said about Theresa May when she won a no-confidence vote.
However, one backbencher, who has called for Mr Johnson’s resignation, told The Independent that the PM cannot take the votes of members of his own government for granted.
Critics have been circulating a briefing paper among Tory MPs over the bank holiday weekend, warning that 160 or more of them could lose their seats in a “landslide” defeat if he leads them into the next election.
Johnson was even labelled the ‘Conservative Corbyn,’ a phrase we assume he loathes as he uses Corbyn’s leadership of Labour as an attack line in PMQs on a regular basis.
it is worth noting that the vote is also a secret ballot, leaving some people have questioned if those that have publically backed Boris Johnson will when it comes to the vote later today.
For example, Liz Truss has widely been reported to want the top job. However, she tweeted her support today writing: “The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him. He has delivered on covid recovery and supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. He has apologised for mistakes made. We must now focus on economic growth.”
Michael Gove has also publically supported the PM, but he has gone for the top job before.
As Femi reminded us on Twitter he since said he’d sign a declaration in his own blood that he doesn’t want to be Prime Minister?
Tonight’s vote will be close but we can see the votes against the PM breaching 180.
Admittedly, the vote is murky, but the PM is an open wound and is bleeding out, and we believe the party will use tonight’s vote to put him out of his, and the nation’s, misery.
Runners and riders if Boris Johnson is toppled
These are the likely contenders if he is voted out this evening.
– Liz Truss
The Foreign Secretary has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling Margaret Thatcher.
Her hard line on Ukraine, insisting Russian forces must be driven from the country, and threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU play well with sections of the party.
Popular with grassroots party members, she has been cultivating support among MPs, reportedly hosting potential backers for “fizz with Liz” in her Commons office earlier this year.
– Jeremy Hunt
Untainted by office during the past three years, the former foreign secretary and ex-health secretary is widely expected to make a fresh bid for the leadership if there is a contest, having been runner-up to Mr Johnson in 2019.
While he has suggested this is not the time for another leadership election, he will know that he may never get another opportunity if he does not run.
As chairman of the Commons Health Committee, he has used his position to make a number of critical interventions on the Government’s handling of the pandemic, although his strong support for lockdown measures will not have pleased all Tory MPs.
– Rishi Sunak
For a long time, the Chancellor seemed the likely favourite in any leadership contest after he turned on the spending taps to protect jobs through the furlough scheme when the pandemic struck.
However his stock has taken a tumble more recently following disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes and he held on to his US green card while serving in Government.
He has also come under fire both for high levels of taxation and for being slow to respond to the cost-of-living crisis, although supporters will hope his latest £21 billion support package will finally put to bed criticism on the second point.
– Penny Mordaunt
The trade minister has emerged as a surprise potential contender with allies touting her as a “unity candidate” who could heal the party’s divisions.
Having played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, she was viewed as paying the price for backing Mr Hunt in the 2019 leadership contest when one of Mr Johnson’s first acts on entering No 10 was to sack her as defence secretary.
She reportedly has the backing of Dame Andrea Leadsom, another committed Brexiteer, whose intervention last week strongly criticising the Prime Minister is thought to have helped tip some MPs into submitting letters.
– Ben Wallace
The Defence Secretary has won admirers in Westminster for his straight-talking and straightforward approach, particularly among Tory MPs who pressed for the UK to increase its defence spending. although cuts to the size of the Army remain a cause for concern.
Mr Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, remains a key voice in the UK’s response to Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine and this increased exposure could assist any leadership bid.
– Tom Tugendhat
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out – with his declaration having been made in January.
A Remainer in 2016, the former soldier has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson – a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.
He recently sought to distance himself from a call by his fellow Remainer, Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood, for the UK to rejoin the EU single market.
– Nadhim Zahawi
The Education Secretary is seen by some as a “safe pair of hands” if other candidates such as Ms Truss prove too divisive.
A successful businessman, he came to wider prominence as vaccines minister during the pandemic and was credited with playing a key part in the successful rollout of the jab.
Born in Iraq to a Kurdish family, he came to the UK as a nine-year-old when his parents fled the regime of Saddam Hussein.