Boris digs in as Tory no-confidence letters near 'magic number'

Save Big Dog… again: Whips brace to protect Boris as Tory no-confidence letters near ‘magic number’ of 54 after Partygate – but rebels fear they would LOSE a full vote and not be able to challenge again for a YEAR

  • Boris Johnson facing growing threat of a confidence vote as Tories break cover
  • Full vote happens when 54 Tory MPs ask 1922 committee chair Graham Brady
  • Some rebels fear they would lose the vote and not be able to challenge for a year 

Boris Johnson is bracing to fight for his political survival again as Tory no-confidence letters near the ‘magic number’ of 54.

Speculation is reaching fever pitch at Westminster that the PM will face a full vote on his future in the wake of Partygate – potentially as soon as next week.

Some 27 MPs have now openly called for Mr Johnson to quit, while others have been heavily critical. However, not all will have sent letters – and a number might have done so 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.

Rebels are also 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 party rules, if the PM sees off the challenge he cannot face another confidence vote for a year. 

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

Mr Johnson is under new pressure after the Sue Gray report on Partygate, which included photos of his 56th birthday in the Cabinet Room

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. 

Theresa May won a confidence vote during her premiership, but was later forced to quit.  

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’. 

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.

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

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