Boris Johnson vowed to ‘draw a line’ under the Tory revolt today as he faces a titanic showdown within hours after the threshold for triggering a confidence vote was dramatically hit.
Backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot, and one will be held between 6pm and 8pm.
Sir Graham, who is thought to have waited for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to end before notifying No10 last night and agreeing the timetable, said in a statement: ‘The threshold of 15 per cent of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded.
‘In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 today, Monday 6th June — details to be confirmed.
‘The votes will be counted immediately afterwards. An announcement will be made at a time to be advised. Arrangements for the announcement will be released later today.’
Sir Graham said he hoped there would be a ‘clear result’.
But a Downing Street spokesman made clear the PM is going to fight. ‘Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities,’ the spokesman said.
‘The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force.’
The announcement came after Former minister Jesse Norman – a long-term supporter of the PM – accused him of ‘grotesque’ behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter.
They have been circulating a dossier branding Mr Johnson the ‘Conservative Corbyn’ and raising alarm about a hammering from both Labour and the Lib Dems.
However, the premier is preparing to ‘stand and fight his corner’ if there is a challenge, with warnings of a damaging civil war and even an early election.
In a round of interviews this morning, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said if Mr Johnson secures support from more than 50 per cent of MPs that will ‘draw a line’ under the revolt.
Mr Johnson could find out as soon as today whether rebel MPs have collected enough letters to trigger a no-confidence vote
Former minister Jesse Norman accused the PM of ‘grotesque’ behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter to Conservative backbench chief Graham Brady
Sir Graham, who notified No10 last night and agreed the timetable, said he hoped there will be a ‘clear result’
Backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot, and one will be held between 6pm and 8pm
In a letter to the Prime Minister posted on social media, Mr Norman, the MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, said Mr Johnson had presided over ‘a culture of casual law-breaking’ in No 10 and that his claim to be vindicated by the Sue Gray report was ‘grotesque’.
One critic claimed over the weekend that 67 letters have been submitted – although it is impossible to be sure as Sir Graham never reveals the number until the threshold is breached.
He was expected to hold off on making any announcement over the four-day Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the Queen, but could give an update with the Commons returning today.
A vote might happen as early as this evening, with Downing Street seeming increasingly resigned to having to fight. However, there have been suggestions that the showdown could be Wednesday.
Some rebels are anxious that the timing could backfire as Mr Johnson is likely to win 50 per cent of the vote and survive. He would theoretically be immune from another challenge for a year, even though the party looks set for more punishment in two crucial by-elections later this month.
A poll over the weekend found the Tories were trailing by 20 points in the Red Wall seat of Wakefield, which they seized as part of Mr Johnson’s landslide in 2019.
The Education Secretary said the public ‘do not vote for divided teams’ – and unless the party unites it could go down to a defeat as catastrophic as Tony Blair‘s Labour landslide of 1997.
Last night Mr Zahawi insisted the PM had got the ‘big calls right’ – and urged MPs to ‘get behind him’ to ensure the Conservatives win the next general election.
And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that, although he did not think the threshold of 54 letters would be reached, he was confident that the PM would win any subsequent vote.
As MPs prepare to return to Westminster today after a week away:
- It emerged that Tory rebels spent the Jubilee weekend circulating a dossier arguing that the only way to win the next election is to ‘remove Boris Johnson’;
- Mr Johnson prepared to launch a fightback this week, unveiling plans to tackle NHS inefficiency and expand the right to buy;
- A poll suggested that the Conservatives are on course to lose the by-election in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, later this month;
- Splits emerged among Tory rebels about who should take over with a Remainer saying a new leader could rejoin the single market and a Eurosceptic demanded the successor be an ‘ardent Brexiteer’.
Nadhim Zahawi warned Tory MPs last night they were plotting a course for disaster by seeking to remove Boris Johnson as Prime Minister
Last night Mr Zahawi told the Daily Mail: ‘People do not vote for divided teams. We are strongest when we are united and focused on delivery for the British people. The PM has got the big calls right: be it on Brexit, vaccines or leading us out of the pandemic. We need to get behind him.’
Meanwhile, Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Sunday Morning yesterday that Mr Johnson would lead the Conservatives into a general election victory because the issues that ‘matter to people’ are Brexit and economic growth.
He dismissed the mixed reception received by the PM as he attended a service for the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, where boos could be heard from the crowd. Mr Shapps noted that there were also cheers and said ‘politicians don’t expect to be popular all the time’.
If the 54 letters have already been submitted, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee, could make an announcement as soon as this morning
Asked if he believes there is going to be a vote of no-confidence in Mr Johnson this week, Mr Shapps said: ‘No, I don’t… I’m absolutely certain, with some of these huge decisions, like sorting out Brexit, getting through coronavirus, seeing the largest growing economy last year, these are decisions and actions which will matter to people.’
Asked if Mr Johnson would win a vote of confidence, the Transport Secretary said: ‘Yes, he will.’
Business minister Paul Scully last night said Mr Johnson could face a vote of no-confidence but backed him to ‘face it down’.
Speaking to Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show, Mr Scully said: ‘We may well have a vote of confidence. I think he will win that.’
Government sources said it was impossible to predict whether the threshold of 54 letters would be reached – and how any subsequent vote would go.
The rebels would need 180 votes to remove the Prime Minister – and he has an in-built advantage as around 170 Tory MPs are on the so-called ‘payroll vote’ because they have jobs as ministers, trade envoys, ministerial ‘bag carriers’ or party vice-chairmen.
One source said: ‘Any confidence vote would be a secret ballot so it’s going to be very uncertain. And if a payroll MP votes against they are expected to resign.’ The source added: ‘The problem for the rebels is that there is no alternative candidate.’
Last week, divisions among the rebels emerged when Tobias Ellwood, an opponent of the PM, suggested the UK could rejoin the single market if Mr Johnson is replaced.
This prompted the Eurosceptic rebel Andrew Bridgen to say: ‘Let me be clear. If we get the opportunity to move on from the leadership of Boris Johnson, the next Prime Minister will have to be an active Brexiteer.’
Boris blasts back with health and housing reforms
A defiant Boris Johnson will launch a fightback against his critics this week by unveiling plans to tackle NHS inefficiency and expand the right to buy social housing.
Despite the threat of a ballot on his leadership, the Prime Minister will make it clear that his Government plans to focus on policies that can win the next election for the Conservatives.
The idea is to show that Mr Johnson is still brimming with ideas for improving the country – and that it would be foolish for his MPs to get rid of him.
This week will see a slew of health announcements, including the revelation today that the NHS has carried out a million checks for cancer and other diseases as part of a post-pandemic catch-up programme. Health Secretary Sajid Javid will also publish a report by Sir Gordon Messenger, a former Royal Marine general who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, into the future of NHS management.
Despite the threat of a ballot on his leadership, the Prime Minister will make it clear that his Government plans to focus on policies that can win the next election for the Conservatives
The review will look at ways of replicating good leadership across the NHS, and ensuring that the best leaders are attracted to the health service.
The Government will also expand on its plans to extend the right to buy, one of Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policies.
Mr Johnson wants to make it easier for people who live in housing association properties to buy their own homes. A No 10 source said: ‘This week the Prime Minister will be focusing on important issues the public want us to address, such as the NHS, the cost of living, and housing.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged Mr Johnson to unveil more traditional Conservative policies, such as tax cuts.
He said: ‘Will the Conservative Government please stand up. Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party need to stand up and become Conservative in government.
‘Those in the squeezed middle have seen taxes rise dramatically. The Conservatives need to cut taxes to ease the pain of the crisis.’
In a speech this week, Mr Johnson will say that he wants 2.5million people who rent housing association properties to have the chance to buy their homes at a discount.
He is also expected to signal his support for the construction of more ‘flat-pack’ homes.
Under the right-to-buy policy, tenants living in council houses can get a discount of up to 70 per cent of the market price, depending on how long they have lived there, or a maximum of £87,200, rising to £116,200 in London. There is a less generous scheme for renters of housing association properties, with a discount of between £9,000 and £16,000.
Mr Johnson is said to want to offer these tenants a bigger discount
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged Mr Johnson to unveil more traditional Conservative policies, such as tax cuts
This week ministers will also update the public on how the NHS is delivering the ‘biggest ever catch-up programme’, with a vast expansion in scans and tests in community clinics. Since February the number of patients waiting more than two years for treatment has more than halved.
Sir Gordon’s findings on the NHS come after a sharp increase in central bureaucracy in the NHS. The doubling in the numbers working in NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care – with the biggest rises seen at the highest levels – over the last two years come at a time when the nursing workforce rose by just 7 per cent.
The figures show the central workforce rose from 7,883 to 14,515, with the number of senior officials rising by 125 per cent, as the pay bill went from £42million to £83million.
Sir Gordon is also understood to be concerned that too much NHS management energy is focused on immediate and short-term tasks, with too little attention paid to the long-term agenda.
Fury over rebels’ dossier of doom
By Daniel Martin Policy Editor for the Daily Mail
Tory rebels came under fire last night after they spent the Jubilee weekend sharing a document that argues the only way to win the next election is to ‘remove Boris Johnson as Prime Minister’.
The paper, entitled Party Leadership, has been sent to a number of MPs who are considering submitting a letter of no confidence in the PM.
It says the only way to ‘end this misery’ is to remove Mr Johnson, who it claims is ‘no longer an electoral asset’.
The document adds that public anger over Partygate is not going to go away, with the prospect of anti-Tory tactical voting leading to a ‘landslide’ for Labour.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith criticised the rebels, saying: ‘It is sad that during the course of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, some MPs took it upon themselves to drag internecine Conservative politics into the mix.
‘It showed no respect for this great moment of celebration.’ It is not known who has circulated the briefing document, but key rebel leaders are understood to include former chief whip Mark Harper and Aaron Bell, an MP who was only elected in 2019.
Key rebel leaders are understood to include former chief whip Mark Harper
While Mr Harper is said to be concentrating on converting older MPs to the anti-Johnson cause, Mr Bell is working on the more recent Tory intake.
Mr Harper is chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, which called for looser restrictions during the pandemic. His opposition to lockdown explains his anger at the revelations of a party culture in No 10 while there were curbs for the public.
Mr Bell was denounced as a ‘turncoat’ by one Cabinet minister at the weekend. The minister said he only won his Newcastle-under-Lyme seat – the first Tory to do so for more than 100 years – because of Mr Johnson’s popularity. Andrew Bridgen, another prominent rebel, revealed the existence of the briefing in a blog yesterday. He said: ‘Unfortunately it is hard for me to disagree with its content. It would be a huge mistake to ignore the mood of the nation.’
Last night Tory MP Brendan Clark-Smith said: ‘This is not a week for politicians to be talking about themselves.’
And fellow Tory MP Mark Jenkinson added: ‘I don’t know what drives a tiny minority of my colleagues to do the Labour Party’s bidding, but I do know that we have the Prime Minister and his Cabinet behind us in our mission to deliver on our 2019 promises. Every single seat of our historic majority was won with Boris Johnson at the helm.’
The document, which covers one side of A4, states: ‘Boris Johnson is no longer an electoral asset and, if left in post, will lead the party to a substantial defeat in 2024. He will lose Red Wall seats (with majorities under 10,000) to Labour, and Blue Wall seats (majorities up to 20,000) to the Liberal Democrats. At least 160 MPs are at risk.’ It adds: ‘The only way to end this misery, earn a hearing from the British public, and restore Conservative fortunes to a point where we can win the next general election, is to remove Boris Johnson.’