Inside the room: Boris Johnson ‘close to tears’ as he pleaded with Tory MPs to halt ‘pork pie plot’

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Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson called rebel MPs from the 2019 Conservative intake to Downing Street for one-on-one meetings in an attempt to stave off a plot to destroy his premiership, The Telegraph has been told.

A caucus of Tories who entered Parliament at the last election met on Tuesday to co-ordinate sending letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee.

The meeting has been labelled the “pork pie plot” because one of the MPs represents the constituency containing Melton Mowbray.

Around 20 rebels held a ballot between them to decide whether they should support Mr Johnson after a series of damaging revelations about parties in Downing Street at the height of lockdown and a collapse in support for the Conservatives in the polls.

It is estimated by one involved that around 10 of the group had already sent letters of no confidence to Sir Graham, with another eight said to have agreed to submit them on Wednesday after Prime Minister’s Questions.

One of the group has been privately blamed for news of the meeting leaking to Number 10 on Tuesday afternoon, prompting a scramble to head off the plot and numerous calls from Mark Spencer, the chief whip.

Many rebels think Mr Spencer’s failure to prevent a swell of anger towards Mr Johnson will cost him his job, with one predicting that he will be sacked by the end of the week if the Prime Minister is not deposed.

Several of the “pork pie plot” ringleaders were summoned to Downing Street for a meeting with Mr Johnson, who was described as “broken” and “close to tears” as he asked MPs for their continued support.

‘Carrot and stick’ approach to staving off rebellion

Downing Street appears to be using a “carrot and stick” approach to the rebellion, with ministers said to be promising “Red Wall” Tories more money for their constituencies if they remain loyal.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is meeting MPs on Wednesday to discuss “levelling up” – which some believe is either an attempt to shore up support for Mr Johnson or a bid to recruit them for his own leadership bid.

Those who betray the Prime Minister have reportedly been threatened with the loss of their seats at the next election or the withdrawal of funding for projects in their seats. The MPs say their anger towards Downing Street worsened when a Cabinet source described them to The Times as “nobodies” on Tuesday night.

Many feel patronised by Number 10 after Mr Johnson began throwing backbenchers “red meat” policies, like scrapping the BBC licence fee and ending small boat migrant crossings of the Channel.

Support for Mr Johnson on Conservative MPs’ WhatsApp groups has dwindled in the last 24 hours, with only a few junior members of the Government speaking in his favour, according to one MP in the groups. Some of those MPs are also said to be privately telling friends that the Prime Minister’s position is untenable, despite their public support.

Concerns about Mr Johnson’s future descended into farce on Tuesday night when rumours emerged that he and MPs plotting against him had gathered in the same venue, the Carlton Club, to plan their next moves.

But Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, one of his biggest cheerleaders, said the claims were “unsubstantiated” and denied that he had attended.

The actual number of no confidence letters received by Sir Graham is unknown, and the 1922 Committee chairman has said not even his wife knows it. Estimates of how many have been received so far range from 20 to 40.

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