Winning by one vote would be enough for Boris Johnson to continue, says Rees-Mogg

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Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency in the Cabinet Office Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives at the Cabinet Office in London (PA)
Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency in the Cabinet Office Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives at the Cabinet Office in London (PA)

Boris Johnson would have a mandate to stay in power even if he wins a no-confidence ballot by a single vote, Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed.

Mr Rees-Mogg, a fervent supporter of the prime minister, said he did not believe the vote was “particularly damaging” to Mr Johnson or the Conservative party.

His comments came after 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady announced 54 letters expressing no confidence in the prime minister had been submitted, triggering a secret ballot.

MPs are set to vote between 6 and 8pm over whether Mr Johnson should continue as leader of the party.

Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News that a single vote would be enough to sustain Mr Johnson’s leadership, denying a bitterly divided Government would be incapable of confronting the countries’ significant challenges.

“That’s the rule in a democracy - if you win by one you win,” he said. “It’s no good saying that the rules of the party say something and then behind it, unofficially, there is some other rule that nobody knows and is invented for the purpose.

“I obviously want the Prime Minister to get as big a majority as possible, I think that would be helpful and it would close this matter down between now and the next general election, which would be good for the country, good for the Conservative Party, but one is enough.”

Mr Rees-Mogg was one of the principal voices calling for the resignation of former prime minister Theresa May over her controversial Brexit policy in December 2018.

After she succeeded in a confidence ballot with around two-thirds of the vote, Mr Rees-Mogg branded the result “terrible” and called for her to resign.

Mr Rees-Mogg conceded he had to “eat a good deal of my own words” after she remained in power for a further seven months.

He said: “I tried this line when I wasn’t entirely supportive of Theresa May… Saying she hadn’t won enough [votes] and actually everyone said to me afterwards that was absolutely nonsense.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister denied he would be distracted from the business of government by the confidence vote.

They also pointed out that Mr Johnson had spoken with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky over telephone on Monday morning.

“Equally there are key domestic challenges - not least the Covid backlog, the cost-of-living pressures - I think he will be taking more action on in due course,” they said.

A string of influential Tory MPs have called on the prime minister to resign over his handling of the partygate scandal, claiming it has eroded public trust in the Government.

Conservative MP John Penrose announced his resignation as the prime minister’s corruption tsar.

Former minister and leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said he would be voting for “change” on Monday evening.

Mr Hunt, who stood against Mr Johnson in 2019’s leadership election, warned the Tories would lose the next election were Mr Johnson to remain in power.

"We are not offering the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country,” he tweeted.

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