Dominic Raab has tried to dispel criticism of Boris Johnson, after it emerged that a number of Tory MPs had sent letters of no confidence to the party’s 1922 committee.
Conservative anger has been growing over the past few weeks, as the party is buffeted by the Owen Paterson scandal, a bitter row over sleaze and second jobs and recent changes to rail plans and the social care cap.
Many in the party were reportedly left feeling queasy by Johnson’s now infamous speech to the CBI on Monday, which saw him forget his place, impersonate his car – and spend a long time discussing Peppa Pig.
Now it has been claimed that some Tory MPs have put their dissatisfaction into writing, sending letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, the chair of the influential 1922 committee of backbenchers.
‘He’s in real trouble’
According to The Sun, up to a dozen letters have been sent. But other MPs suggested it was likely “one or two had gone in”, Politico reported.
A leadership challenge is only triggered when 15 per cent of Tory MPs submit letters to Brady. With 360 Tory MPs in the House, 54 disgruntled MPs would need to send one.
One senior Tory MP told The Sun: “He is like Jose Mourinho – he was good a decade ago and his powers have been fading ever since.
“Yes he won an election, but a bowl of soup could have beaten Jeremy Corbyn.
“There is real anger. He has until Spring to get back on track or he will be in real trouble.
“Letters have gone in. I am on the cusp myself.”
But Raab – the deputy prime minister – dismissed claims of a leadership challenge on Wednesday morning, telling LBC: “There is the usual Westminster tittle tattle and I’m not aware of that.”
Earlier, he told BBC Breakfast that Johnson remained “on great form”.
“The prime minister is on great form,” he said. “The reality is people speak about speeches in the Westminster village, the gossip and all the rest of it.
“It’s the job of Westminster commentators to pick up on one anonymous source from wherever they found it to criticise the Government of the day, that’s fine.”
He added: “The prime minister is an ebullient, bouncy, optimistic, Tiggerish character and he livens up his speeches in a way that few politicians past and present have done but actually there is a steeliness to him as a prime minister and indeed his team, and we work as a team.”