Boris Johnson determined to fight any no confidence vote and next election

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Boris Johnson will fight any no confidence vote launched against him by his own MPs and expects to fight the next general election, No 10 has said, after he was urged to resign by a Tory grandee and lost one of his newest MPs to Labour.

The Prime Minister was told by former minister and senior Tory MP David Davis to “in the name of God, go” in the Commons on Wednesday, soon after Bury South MP Christian Wakeford – who was elected in 2019 with just a 402-vote majority – staged a dramatic defection to Labour minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Johnson went into the Commons with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide appeared to have lost faith in their boss.

The anger levelled at the PM was not contained to one wing of the Conservative Party, and Mr Johnson’s press secretary said he would have further meetings with MPs on Wednesday as he attempts to shore up support on his back benches.

Referring to Mr Wakeford, the press secretary said: “I think we’re obviously sorry to see a colleague – who was elected by constituents, who voted for a Boris Johnson-led government – leave and attempt to put Keir Starmer into No 10, which will be a disaster for the country.”

After Mr Johnson said in the Commons that the Tories had won in Bury South once and would again, the press secretary said the PM would lead his party into the next election.

Asked if Mr Johnson would also fight any no confidence vote by his party and whether he was the best man for the job, the press secretary said: “Yes.”

She added: “Our focus is very clear in terms of delivering the ambitious agenda that we have set out, that we were elected on in 2019, and we want to continue to work together as Conservatives to deliver this.”

Mr Wakeford accused Mr Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves” as he switched sides.

After a joint media appearance with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, he said the Tories are “a party trying to defend the indefensible” as he explained his defection.

A Labour spokesman said the party had been in talks with Mr Wakeford for “some time” and would welcome an election.

Sir Keir Starmer with Christian Wakeford
Sir Keir Starmer with Christian Wakeford (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said their contact pre-dated the Downing Street party allegations.

Sir Keir met Mr Wakeford on Monday evening, the spokesman said.

Asked during a briefing with journalists if Labour was in talks with any more Tory MPs who might be considering defecting, the spokesman said: “I am not going to get into that.”

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said she was not aware of any further impending defections.

She said: “The Prime Minister understands the anger and the hurt that these ongoing allegations have caused across the country and in Parliament, and that’s why he’s addressed these allegations where he has been able to, and why we are having an investigation to establish the full facts of what has happened.”

Setting out what Mr Johnson had told MPs he had met, she said: “The broad message of all of these meetings is to focus on what we’ve delivered for the country so far since we were elected, from getting Brexit done to record investments in local transport and infrastructure, to tackling this unprecedented pandemic, and we’ve consistently made tough decisions which have resulted in us being in the position we’re in now.”

In the Commons, Mr Johnson apologised again for the partygate saga which threatens to be the death knell for his time as Prime Minister.

He said it was for senior official Sue Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, as he indicated the report would be published next week.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

Facing loud jeers from the Conservative benches as he tried to ask his first question, Sir Keir accused Tory MPs of having “brought their own boos” to Parliament, in a nod to the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street in May 2020 that the Prime Minister has admitted he attended.

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, we must wait for the outcome of the investigation but I believe what I have said.”

His official spokesman said he did not have access to Mr Johnson’s diary for the day of the event, which could be crucial to showing whether he knew about it in advance – something he has denied.

The spokesman said: “Obviously that whole claim will be something that will be looked at in the investigation, as you’d expect, so either way I wouldn’t be able to comment.”

He added that the PM would usually get a “run-through of his day” in a morning meeting, but he could not say what was discussed “on that particular date”.

Mr Johnson’s allies had pleaded for him to be given more time as reports suggested the threshold of 54 letters from MPs, which would launch a no confidence vote, could be reached on Wednesday.

He has insisted “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules” and he believed he was attending a work event.

Dominic Cummings resigns
Dominic Cummings alleged the PM was made aware of a Downing Street gathering in May 2020 (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But former aide Dominic Cummings alleged Mr Johnson was aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.

The PM’s press secretary could not point to where a work event would have been permitted under the rules.

The May 20 event is, alongside others, the subject of an investigation by Ms Gray, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the Prime Minister.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told a Downing Street press conference he “fully supports the Prime Minister” as he waits for the Gray report.

Mr Javid, who ran against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, did not rule out another bid in future, saying: “We have a leader. We have a Prime Minister.”

Asked during PMQs if he would resign, the PM said he would not.

Senior Tory Mr Davis said he had spent weeks defending Mr Johnson from “angry constituents”, including reminding them of the “successes of Brexit”.

He said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that, so I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear – Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain: You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

Mr Johnson replied: “What I can tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to – what I can tell him is, and I think I have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this Government and throughout the pandemic.”

Seven Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, far short of the 54 required to submit letters of no confidence to the backbench 1922 Committee.

The number would have been eight following Mr Davis’s comments but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.

Andrew Bridgen, one of the seven, told the PA news agency he expected 20 more letters to go to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady from 2019-intake MPs on Wednesday.

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