1922 committee treasurer hints no-confidence rules could be changed in wake of by-election defeat

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1922 committee treasurer hints no-confidence rules could be changed in wake of by-election defeat - Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/Att /PA
1922 committee treasurer hints no-confidence rules could be changed in wake of by-election defeat - Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/Att /PA

The Treasurer of the 1922 Committee has suggested that the rules on holding a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson could be changed in the wake of two by-election defeats.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Tory MP for the Cotswolds, said on Friday morning that the party would be forced to make “difficult decisions” after the results, which includes the biggest by-election defeat ever and the loss of a Red Wall seat first won by the Tories in 2019.

The current rules of the Committee state that a sitting party leader cannot face another confidence ballot in their leadership within twelve months of winning the first.

Mr Johnson saw off a challenge earlier this month, but 148 of his colleagues voted to remove him from office.

Some Tory MPs now think that the rules should be changed to allow Mr Johnson to be removed from office if a majority can be reached.

Tory MPs are preparing to vote in the 1922 Committee elections, which are expected to be completed before Parliament's summer recess, which begins on July 21.

The election could see some of Mr Johnson's opponents on the Conservative back benches elected to key roles, making rule changes more likely.

The current chair of the Committee, Sir Graham Brady, has said it is "likely" the one-year grace period will remain but admitted it was possible it could be scrapped.

"I'm not going to come on out this morning and speculate on behalf of my colleagues as to whether we should or shouldn't change the rules,” Sir Geoffrey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He added that “over the next few days” Mr Johnson would be required to set out his stall to convince MPs he can still win a general election.

"We will then in the parliamentary party have to make a judgement as to whether we think that is a satisfactory explanation or whether we should actually take steps to have a new Prime Minister,” he said.

MPs are likely to spend the coming days in conversation with their constituents and colleagues over what the next steps should be.

Changing the rules of the Committee has been suggested before, after a no-confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership failed, in similar circumstances.

Mrs May eventually resigned voluntarily after accepting she no longer had the support of most of her colleagues.

Speaking from Kigali, where he is attending a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, Mr Johnson vowed to “keep going” as Prime Minister.

“What we need to do now is reflect on where voters are, and what they are basically feeling is that we came through Covid well and we took a lot of the right decisions there,” he said.

“But we are facing pressures on the costs of living.”

The result in Tiverton and Honiton overturned a Conservative majority of 24,000 - the largest ever defeat in a by-election in electoral history.

The result has spooked some Tory MPs who previously believed their seats were safe at the next election.

Sir Geoffrey, who has a majority of over 20,000, said there is “no doubt" it would be "difficult to hold" his seat if there was a by-election there now.

"I think factually if I were to run under a bus today it would be difficult to hold my seat, there's no doubt about that.

"I feel very sorry for all our volunteers and indeed my colleagues, and indeed myself, who work very hard in these by-elections, but were simply defeated by the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment."

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