Public support for Prime Minister as loyalists rally round

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday May 25, 2022. (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday May 25, 2022. (PA Wire)

Dozens of Conservative MPs and ministers issued public declarations of support for Boris Johnson ahead of a vote on the future of his leadership.

In what appeared to be a co-ordinated show of support, Cabinet ministers – including potential leadership contenders Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace – declared their backing for Mr Johnson on social media.

Backbench Tories also joined in, with some tweeting a document drawn up by the Prime Minister’s allies showing his achievements and setting out reasons to keep him in place.

Along with the social media comments, a concerted operation was launched to ensure allies of the Prime Minister were in front of broadcast cameras.

By mid-morning the public declarations of support had eclipsed the 54 MPs required to trigger the confidence vote.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss said: “The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him.”

Mr Sunak, the Chancellor, said: “From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.”

Defence Secretary Mr Wallace said: “In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before.

“On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence.”

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has sought to downplay the significance of a confidence vote in Boris Johnson in an interview with Sky News, calling it the “routine of politics”.

Referring to the threshold of Tory MPs who have submitted a letter of no confidence, he said: “I don’t think getting to the 15% bar is particularly damaging, or indeed particularly surprising. I think it’s a relatively low bar and fairly easy to get to.”

After suggestions he had been rolled out in front of cameras to voice his support of Mr Johnson, he said: “Nobody has forced me to come out to support an exceptional, good, forward-looking Prime Minister.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also told the broadcaster: “The choice is we’ve got a prime minister who’s got their big calls right – on the vaccine rollout, on getting the economy fired up, the leadership he’s shown on Ukraine.”

He said a leadership competition would be seen by the public as a “conversation amongst ourselves”, adding: “I think that will feel, to many people, as self-indulgent at this important crossroads.

“So I think it’s important people get behind the Prime Minister and I’m confident they will.”

MPs Brendon Clarke-Smith and Michael Fabricant both tweeted a briefing document listing the Prime Minister’s achievements and reasons to keep him in post.

It said that backing Mr Johnson would allow the party to “move on from distractions” and hailed his “unmatched electoral record”.

Although as the ballot is secret, there is no guarantee that all those who publicly backed the Prime Minister would do so when the time comes to cast their vote.

In the hours following Tory 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady’s announcement that the vote would take place on Monday evening there were some conspicuous absences from the list of those tweeting support.

Trade minister Penny Mordaunt, who is rumoured to have leadership ambitions, said she was attending a D-Day memorial event in Portsmouth.

But she later told Portsmouth’s The News: “I didn’t choose this prime minister, I didn’t support him in the leadership contest but he has always had my loyalty because I think that’s what you do when you have a democratic process – you select a leader and then you owe that person your loyalty.

“That’s always been my approach, whatever differences I’ve had with people and that remains. I’m one of his ministers and I have continued to support him.”

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who stood against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, said he would not support him, warning that keeping the Prime Minister in post would wreck the party’s electoral chances.

“Having been trusted with power, Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve,” he said.

“We are not offering the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country.

“And because we are no longer trusted by the electorate, who know this too, we are set to lose the next general election.”

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