Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing hostility from his own MPs, with Tory whips said to be discussing how to fight back if rebels trigger an all-important confidence vote.
A steady stream of Tories have backed a ballot to decide the PM’s future, or called for Mr Johnson to step down, with three new names surfacing on Monday and a fourth MP resubmitting a letter of no confidence he previously withdrew in light of the Ukraine crisis .
The Telegraph reported that Conservative whips are now in talks about how to respond if the letter tally reaches 54, which would force 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady to call a vote.
All Tory MPs will be contacted at once if the threshold is reached, according to one whip, the newspaper said, as part of a move to save the PM’s job.
Conservative Andrew Bridgen emailed his North West Leicestershire constituents on Monday 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.
A spokesman for Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn, who was elected in 2019, confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
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 criticizing Mr Johnson, but did not appear to call for him to resign.
According to Sky News’ Tom Larkin, he said: “The PM put the governance of the UK at risk to a single, severe Covid outbreak. That is to say nothing of the lack of respect it showed for the British people or the Queen.
“I have made my position clear to those who need to hear it.”
In his email to constituents, Mr Bridgen said: “I did believe that during the initial stages of the Russia/Ukraine war that it would be wrong to have a leadership contest.
“There have, however, been further revelations over the past week and there is obviously and rightly still a lot of anger about the culture in No 10 during the lockdown period.
“I and colleagues have put in a letter of no confidence over the past few days and it may well be the numbers are close to triggering a vote of no confidence.
“This would give the parliamentary party the opportunity to register whether they believe Boris Johnson is the person to continue leading the party or not.”
It comes as No 10 is under renewed pressure to say if Mr Johnson’s wife hosted a second lockdown party in the Downing Street flat on the day of the Prime Minister’s 56th birthday.
Earlier in the day on June 19 2020, Mr Johnson was present at an impromptu gathering in the Cabinet Room, which led to him being fined by the Metropolitan Police along with his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Government had already been facing questions over another event in the flat later in the year, on November 13, when Mrs Johnson reportedly held the so-called “Abba party” to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings in the fallout from a bitter No 10 power struggle.
In her report, Ms Gray said she had only gathered “limited” evidence on the event when she had to stop due to the police investigation, and that she did not consider it “appropriate or proportionate” to summarize after officers concluded their inquiry.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.