Johnson says the issue of the Tory leadership is ‘settled’
Boris Johnson has said questions over his leadership have been “settled” as one Cabinet minister insisted that he still in enjoyed the support of senior colleagues.
The Prime Minister, attending the G7 summit in Germany, brushed off reports that Tory MPs were continuing to plot against him in the wake of last week’s twin by-election defeats.
Asked if he was concerned about events at home, he insisted the matter had been dealt with in the confidence vote earlier this month which he won, despite 40% of his MPs voting to get rid of him.
“We settled that a couple of weeks ago,” he told reporters.
“What I’m focused on, and what we’re doing is getting on with, number one, all the stuff we’re doing to help people with the cost of living in the short term.”
Mr Johnson however fuelled anger among his critics on the backbenches with his suggestion over the weekend that far from considering standing aside he was hoping for a third term as Prime Minister carrying on into the 2030s.
His comments have reportedly prompted a fresh wave of MPs to submit letters calling for another confidence vote in his leadership.
Although under current rules he is supposed to be safe from a challenge for another year, there is speculation that they could be re-written if there is sufficient pressure from Conservative MPs for him to go.
Mr Johnson told the BBC he still has the authority to deliver on the Government’s agenda despite the renewed calls for him to quit.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, the Prime Minister said: “I not only have the authority, I’ve got a new mandate from my party, which I’m absolutely delighted about.”
He added: “I’m focused on what I’m doing as a leader of the country, and it’s driving a massive, massive agenda.
“That is a huge, huge privilege to do. Nobody abandons a privilege like that.
“Because this is something that the electorate – the mandate that the electorate gave us in 2019, there hasn’t been a mandate like it for the Conservative Party for 40 years, it’s a mandate to change the country, to unite and to level up, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice defended Mr Johnson’s earlier remarks, during the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Rwanda, saying he had been making the point there was a “lot he wants to do”.
“I sometimes feel in these situations that prime ministers can’t win,” Mr Eustice told Times Radio.
“They either say that they want to carry on and they’ve got a lot to do and they want to keep going. And that’s what obviously Margaret Thatcher said and what Boris Johnson is perceived to have said.
“Or like Tony Blair, they say they’re not going to go on and on and people spend years arguing about the date of their departure. So they can’t really win in these situations.”
Despite the resignation of Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden in the wake of the by-election losses in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton, Mr Eustice insisted the rest of the Cabinet continued to back their leader.
“We have the support of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister has our support, we work together and we stick together through difficult times,” he told Sky News.
He said that the two by-election defeats were “very disappointing”, but stressed that Boris Johnson’s senior ministers would continue to work together to back him.
“We’ve got an important agenda that we’re working on, and that’s what we’re all focused on.”
But the expressions of discontent have kept on coming, with Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warning the Government “needs to alter both its style and content” and calling on Cabinet members with leadership hopes to show their stripes.
William Wragg, the Tory chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said he has concerns for the security of his seat – and for those of colleagues “with majorities much larger than mine” – which would likely be assuaged by Mr Johnson’s departure.
In the by-election in the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, a dramatic swing of almost 30% from the Conservatives saw their 24,000 majority overturned by the Liberal Democrats.
In West Yorkshire, Labour seized back Wakefield with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories.