Boris Johnson is set to face an increasingly angry chorus of his own MPs amid reports the 54 letters which would launch a no confidence vote in the PM could be received on Wednesday.
Reports on Tuesday night suggested MPs furious at the prime minister’s handling of the partygate scandal engulfing Westminster had been angered further by Mr Johnson’s insistence that nobody had told him a party at Downing Street would break rules he himself had set.
And that especially those in the 2019 intake, many of whom have slim majorities after votes were “lent” to them during the last election, were preparing to submit their letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady.
Pork pie putsch
Bury South MP Christian Wakeford – who has a majority of just 402 – became the seventh Conservative MP to publicly call for Mr Johnson to go on Tuesday, according to Yahoo News.
But a number of newspapers reported that the plot to oust Mr Johnson was far wider, as the PM will attempt to reassure his party when he appears in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
An expected announcement that Plan B measures to stem the spread of coronavirus will be lifted next week is likely to please some backbenchers.
But MPs from the former so-called Red Wall were said to have met on Tuesday to discuss Mr Johnson’s future in a gathering nicknamed the “pork pie plot” or the “pork pie putsch”, and one told The Daily Telegraph the 15 per cent of letters needed to trigger a challenge could be reached on Wednesday.
Sacked in 2004
It wouldn’t be the first time that Johnson has been ousted from the Conservative Party.
In 2004 the then shadow arts minister was sensationally sacked from the Tory front bench after admitting he lied over his affair with society hostess and writer Petronella Wyatt.
Conservative leader Michael Howard acted swiftly after Ms Wyatt’s mother, Lady Verushka Wyatt, told The Mail on Sunday her daughter had an abortion last month as a result of an affair with Mr Johnson, who was also editor of The Spectator magazine.
Lady Wyatt’s account flew in the face of an outright denial issued by Mr Johnson last week, when he described reports of an affair with Ms Wyatt as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”.
Reporting at the time, Simon Walters wrote:
“But his comment was untrue: he did have an affair. When Mr Howard was told yesterday, he immediately asked married father-of-four Mr Johnson to resign.
“Mr Johnson refused and was fired.”
The episode was later satirised by Toby Young and Lloyd Evans in a theatre show called Who’s the Daddy? that played at Islington’s King’s Head Theatre to great acclaim.