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Boris Johnson chairs a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street this morning (Photo: Leon Neal via PA Wire/PA Images)
Boris Johnson’s vow to bring back imperial measurements sparked a fresh wave of anger from Tory MPs that led to an attempt to boot him out of Downing Street, HuffPost UK has learned.
The surprise announcement, timed to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, left many of the prime minister’s backbenchers “completely flabbergasted” because they did not know about it in advance.
The plan was briefed to the Mail on Sunday after the Commons broke up for the half-term recess.
On MPs’ first day back, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, announced that he had received more than 54 letters of no confidence, triggering last night’s vote.
Although the PM won the vote, 148 of Tory MPs - 41 per cent of the total - voted against him in a major blow to his authority.
A former cabinet minister said: “This latest rebellion all began with the pounds and ounces announcement. A lot of colleagues were completely flabbergasted by that. That was the start of the period that led to this.
“But that’s what will end up taking him out - something that people are not expecting.”
Johnson this morning told his cabinet that the confidence vote result had “drawn a line” under the civil war tearing the Conservatives apart as he vowed to cut taxes and drive down the cost of government.
He said: “Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to ask everybody to come forward with ways in which we cut costs, drive reform, and make sure that we understand that in the end it is people who have the best feel for how to spend their own money rather than the government or the state. And that is our fundamental, Conservative instinct.”
But one rebel Tory MP said the government was in “chaos” and nothing would be resolved until Johnson was gone.
“His speech to the 1922 committee before the vote was his last window of opportunity to persuade me not to vote against him,” the MP said. “But it was disgraceful. There was no humility over partygate, it was just more of the same.”
Another MP added: “Behind the scenes, people who are publicly supporting him have acknowledged that he’s finished.”
A Conservative insider said the PM was in “the twilight zone” after last night’s vote.
They said: “The result was neither dawn nor dusk, so he’s in the twilight zone.
“The rebels aren’t going to go away and he’s not going to resign. It’s stalemate.”
Former Tory leader William Hague called on Johnson to resign, claiming the confidence vote result was “the worst of all worlds”.
And rebel backbencher Andrew Bridgen said: “Lord Hague is right. The residual concerns from across the party will continue to remain.”
He said Johnson “should now leave with honour and residual affection for what he has achieved”.
Under the 1922 committee’s current rules, no leader can face another confidence vote for at least 12 months after surviving one.
However, it is understood that moves could be made to change the rules to allow Johnson to be challenged again sooner if he fails to turn around Tory fortunes.
Asked how long he thinks the PM can survive, leading rebel Tobias Ellwood told Sky News: ”“I think we’re talking a matter of months, up to party conference.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.