Boris Johnson hit by new letters of no confidence from Tory MPs

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Boris Johnson said he was ‘thinking actively’ about fighting the next two general elections to take him past 2030 - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters
Boris Johnson said he was ‘thinking actively’ about fighting the next two general elections to take him past 2030 - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters

Boris Johnson has been hit by a new wave of no confidence letters after saying he is planning for a third term in Downing Street, Tory rebels said on Sunday night.

The rebels revealed they had been contacted by MPs submitting letters to the backbench 1922 Committee after the Prime Minister said he was “thinking actively” about fighting the next two general elections to take him past 2030.

One former Cabinet minister said: “Talking about a third term before even winning a second is taking voters for granted – that usually doesn’t end well.”

Another said: “It has already provoked more letters,” while a third, previously loyal to Mr Johnson, added: “For some colleagues, it has an air of unreality – which is annoying quite a few of them.”

Blower cartoon
Blower cartoon

It comes ahead of elections in the next fortnight for the 1922 Committee. Two MPs, Steve Baker and Andrew Bridgen, have indicated that they will stand on a slate seeking to change the rules to allow another confidence vote in the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson is currently safe from a second confidence vote for a year after he narrowly won one this month – but the 12-month rule can be changed in a secret ballot by the 18-strong ruling executive of the committee.

Mr Bridgen said the Prime Minister’s comments would spark a backlash, adding: “It will have that effect.

“I’ve been approached by a number of my colleagues who only two weeks ago voted that they had confidence in the PM but now have buyer’s remorse.”

It follows the by-election losses of Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield that precipitated the resignation of Oliver Dowden, the Conservative chairman, who said that “somebody must take responsibility” and the Government could not carry on with “business as usual”.

One member of the 1922 Committee predicted there would be no vote of confidence before the July recess but said the committee could consider a rule change before MPs return in September.

It is likely any change would see the threshold for triggering a second vote of confidence raised from 54 MPs – 15 per cent of the parliamentary party – to up to 108, or 30 per cent, in order to prevent repeated challenges to the Prime Minister.

The count for letters calling for the Prime Minister to go is reset after each confidence vote, but rebels are confident they could surpass 108 after garnering 148 votes in the first ballot against 211 for Mr Johnson.

“The key point is going to come when the privileges committee determines if the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House of Commons. If it does, that is when the pressure will become unsustainable,” said the source.

Asked at the G7 summit in Germany on Sunday whether his ambitions for a third term were delusional, Mr Johnson said: “What I’m saying is this is a Government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a huge amount to do.”

He said the “golden rule” was to “focus on what we are doing” and maintained the achievements of his Government had been “exceptional” and “remarkable”.

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, doubled down on the third term claims, saying; “Looking long-term is a really good thing.”

Rebel MPs claimed on Sunday that allies of Mr Johnson had raised the spectre of a snap general election in October. “I was told we are not going to have an election in October on the proviso that the party behaves itself,” said one leading rebel.

“It’s a threat to say effectively the Prime Minister would prefer to take the whole ship down rather than put himself overboard in a dinghy.”

Tim Loughton, a former minister and critic of Mr Johnson, said he was opposed to a rule change, adding: “The surprising thing is that we have not seen more ministerial resignations and it is probably that that will create momentum.

“If he can survive and get his attention back on the people’s priorities, then he needs to have a radical shake-up of Government and bring in a lot of critics. I want to see people who are not saying ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ but saying ‘Are you nuts, Prime Minister?’ taking him on and challenging him on certain things.”

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