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Boris begs Tory MPs NOT to oust him ahead of crunch vote TONIGHT

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Boris Johnson warned that ‘fratricide’ will gift Keir Starmer the keys to No10 as he made a last-ditch plea ahead of a crunch confidence vote tonight.

The PM begged his troops to recognise ‘now is not the moment’ for a coup, after he suffered a series of huge blows – including his own anti-corruption tsar quitting and rival Jeremy Hunt joining the coup bid. 

Backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot, which will now happen between 6pm and 8pm – with the results at 9pm. 

Mr Johnson made a final plea at a meeting of the parliamentary party, telling them he is the only option with a ‘credible plan’ for how to move forward. ‘I’ve yet to see a credible plan from anyone else,’ he said.

In a 26-minute appearance during which he faced some questions, he premier insisted Conservatives should not waste time on ‘a pointless fratricidal debate about the future of the party’. 

How will the latest day of drama at Westminster play out? 

8am: 1922 committee chair Graham Brady announced that a confidence vote will be held

1.45pm: Rishi Sunak appearing before Treasury Select Committee

4pm: Boris Johnson addresses Tory MPs pleading for them to support him

6pm-8pm: Voting in the confidence ballot

8.15pm-8.30pm: Results are announced 

The challenge raises the possibility that Mr Johnson’s tenure could come to a crashing end less than three years after he won a stunning 80-strong Commons majority.

However, if half of the 359 eligible MPs back him in the secret vote in theory he is safe for a year – with some insurgents fearing they have moved too early ahead of key by-elections later this month.

Cabinet ministers have been insisting that a single vote is enough, but there are fears he will be doomed if he cannot get backing from two-thirds of the parliamentary party.  

Tory enforcers are already gearing up to threaten and cajole the rank-and-file, with chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris sending out a round-robin message to MPs offering to do proxy votes on their behalf. Politicians have also been warned by Sir Graham that their ballots will be void if they take photographs of papers – in an effort to prevent pressure tactics.

John Penrose, a usually-loyal MP who served as the premier’s anti-corruption champion, said he had ‘no option’ but to resign as Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code. ‘I think it’s over,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt – who lost the last leadership contest to Mr Johnson – tweeted saying that he will vote against the PM.

‘Anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer & more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values. Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change,’ he wrote. 

There is speculation that more senior figures might be about to quit to join the insurrection, with trade minister Penny Mordaunt seen as on ‘resignation watch’. She tweeted today that she is in her Portsmouth constituency for a D-Day anniversary commemoration – but pointedly did not offer full-throated backing for the premier. 

Mr Johnson attempted to show he is getting on with the job with pictures of him on the phone to Ukraine’s President Zelensky. And in letters to MPs – which he is said to have spent an hour signing by hand – he insisted: ‘With your support, I believe that tonight we have a great prize within our grasp… We can get on with the job without the noises off.’

PM put a brave face on at Jubilee bash after learning about confidence vote

Boris Johnson put a brave face on at a Jubilee bash yesterday after learning about the looming confidence vote.   

The PM was notified of the challenge by Sir Graham Brady early yesterday afternoon, and they discussed the timetable for the vote.

He then attended the pageant with wife Carrie, seemingly without a care in the world. 

However, Mr Johnson is believed to have gathered close aides and election guru Lynton Crosby in No10 last night to consider his plan of attack. 

They decided to send personalised letters to all MPs, and play up the idea that he personally was the one who secured 14million votes at the 2019 election. 

The premier received a limited boost from a snap poll by Opinium showing that although voters overall want Tories to oust him, Conservative supports would rather keep him on by a margin of 53 per cent to 34 per cent.

A YouGov poll of Tory members found they would prefer him to stay on by 53 per cent to 42 per cent. 

Cabinet ministers immediately rallied round, with Rishi Sunak pledging his support, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss saying he has her ‘100 per cent backing’. Deputy PM Dominic Raab and Michael Gove also stood by him, while Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: ‘If he got a majority of one, that’s enough to move on.’

In a vicious riposte to Mr Hunt on social media, Ms Dorries said: ‘Your handling of the pandemic would have been a disaster. 

‘Your pandemic preparation during six years as health secretary was found wanting and inadequate. Your duplicity right now in destabilising the party and country to serve your own personal ambition, more so…

‘If you had been leader you’d have handed the keys of No10 to Corbyn. You’ve been wrong about almost everything, you are wrong again now.’ 

Ex-Cabinet minister David Davis cautioned that Mr Johnson’s problems ‘won’t go away’ if there is ‘anything less than a two thirds majority’, although he will ‘hang on’.

‘You may remember after Theresa May won her first vote actually… moderately comfortably, she accepted that her time was was limited. 

‘Her days were numbered, and she would deliver various things before she then stood down. I don’t think that will happen with Boris. He’ll hang on.’ 

Another senior MP who has been generally supportive of Mr Johnson told MailOnline that anything more than 100 MPs voting against him would be ‘very bad’, arguing that the 150-plus MPs on the payroll are already priced in. 

‘He will win, but how much he wins by is the most important thing. Fewer than 100 would be good, anything more very bad. The payroll vote has to back him, so people will look at whether he’s got a majority on the back benches,’ they said. 

The MP also grimly recalled that other leaders, such as Mrs May, had not survived for long even after winning a confidence vote. ‘These things never end well. The genie is out of the bottle,’ they said. 

Mr Johnson’s former communications director Will Walden said he would be taken ‘kicking and screaming’ out of No10. But he cautioned that history shows if a PM does not record a ‘convincing’ win then ‘ultimately you bleed to death’.  

‘Boris will be taken kicking and screaming out of the front door of Number 10. There is no way that the thing that he has wanted all his life he is going to give up easily on,’ he told the BBC.

‘The idea that Boris Johnson is going to go is for the birds, and it will take several people with revolvers in the room to convince him to go.’

On another breathless day of chaos at Westminster:

  • The Cabinet launched an extraordinary media blitz designed to prop up the premier, insisting he had been right on the ‘big decisions’; 
  • More than a dozen Tory donors have lined up behind Mr Johnson saying a leadership contest would ‘waste precious time;  
  • Blue-on-blue tensions flared into open abuse with Nadine Dorries lashing out at Jeremy Hunt over his leadership ambitions; 
  • An unnamed Tory MP accused of rape will be able to vote because they have not been suspended from the whip;  
  • Labour and the Lib Dems gleefully seized on the shambles as they hope to win by-elections in Tiverton and Wakefield from the Conservatives.  

Boris Johnson (pictured speaking to Ukraine’s president Zelensky today) has sent a letter to MPs pleading for them to ‘draw a line’ under the infighting, after backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot

Jeremy Hunt

Former minister Jesse Norman accused the PM of 'grotesque' behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter to Conservative backbench chief Graham Brady

Former minister Jesse Norman (right) accused the PM of ‘grotesque’ behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter to Conservative backbench chief Graham Brady. Jeremy Hunt (left) – who lost the last leadership contest to Mr Johnson – tweeted saying that he will vote against the PM.

John Penrose, an MP who served as the premier's anti-corruption champion and husband of ex NHS Test and Trace chief Dido Harding, said he had 'no option' but to resign as Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code. 'I think it's over,' he said

John Penrose, an MP who served as the premier’s anti-corruption champion and husband of ex NHS Test and Trace chief Dido Harding, said he had ‘no option’ but to resign as Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code. ‘I think it’s over,’ he said

How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?  

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? 

 Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

How is that triggered? 

 A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are. 

What happens when the threshold is reached? 

A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

What happens if the leader wins?

In theory securing 50 per cent of the vote means that the premier cannot be challenged again for 12 months.

But Theresa May won, and was later threatened with a rule change to enable her to face another vote – forcing her to resign.  

What happens if the leader loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected. 

Sir Graham, who waited for the Queen’s 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’. Two Tories – Rob Roberts and David Warburton and are currently suspended from the whip – but another unnamed MP accused of rape will be able to vote. 

In a letter to Conservatives, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘I know that over recent months I have come under a great deal of fire, and I know that experience has been painful for the whole party.

‘Some of that criticism has perhaps been fair, some less so. Where there have been valid points, I have listened and learned and made significant changes.

‘And I will of course continue to listen and learn from colleagues about the improvements you wish to see.

‘But I cannot stress too much that we have a golden chance to put this behind us now.

‘With your support, I believe that tonight we have a great prize within our grasp. We can put an end to the media’s favourite obsession. We can get on with the job without the noises off.

‘And I am absolutely confident that if we can unite in the days ahead then in due course we will win again, repay the trust of the 14million who voted for us, and continue to serve the country we love.’

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.’

Mr Johnson is believed to have gathered close aides and election guru Lynton Crosby in No10 last night to consider his plan of attack after being notified of the confidence vote. 

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.

Mr Norman warned that any breach of the Northern Irish Protocol would be ‘economically very damaging, politically foolhardy and almost certainly illegal’.

‘You are the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, yet you are putting the Union itself gravely at risk,’ he told Mr Johnson.

He said the Government’s Rwanda policy was ‘ugly, likely to be counterproductive and of doubtful legality’ and that plans to privatise Channel 4 were ‘unnecessary and provocative’.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries launched a vicious retort at Mr Hunt after he joined the rebellion against the PM

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries launched a vicious retort at Mr Hunt after he joined the rebellion against the PM

The premier received a limited boost from a snap poll by Opinium showing that although voters overall want Tories to oust him, Conservative supports would rather keep him on by a margin of 53 per cent to 34 per cent

The premier received a limited boost from a snap poll by Opinium showing that although voters overall want Tories to oust him, Conservative supports would rather keep him on by a margin of 53 per cent to 34 per cent

Cabinet ministers rallied round Mr Johnson after it emerged a confidence vote will be held tonight

Cabinet ministers rallied round Mr Johnson after it emerged a confidence vote will be held tonight

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

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

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted ... about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP.

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP.

Rebels v loyalists: What MPs are saying 

Jeremy Hunt: ‘Anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer & more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values. Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.’

John Penrose: ‘The only fair conclusion to draw from the Sue Gray report is that you have breached a fundamental principle of the Ministerial Code – a clear resigning matter.’ 

Jesse Norman: ‘You are the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, yet you are putting the Union itself gravely at risk.’ 

Angela Richardson: ‘From the very beginning of the issues surrounding the Prime Minister’s conduct during the lockdown period and his subsequent answers to parliamentary questions, I have been consistent in my views about the standards people expect of those in high office.’ 

Rishi Sunak: ‘From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.’  

Michael Gove: ‘I’ll be voting for Boris this evening. The PM got the big decisions right on Brexit and Covid.’ 

Another ex-minister, Andrew Mitchell, said he will be voting against Mr Johnson even though he had not submitted a letter. 

‘I very much fear if he does win tonight it will be a Pyrrhic victory,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

‘He needs to look himself in the mirror and ask himself what is in the best interests of our country and of our party.’

Mr Mitchell said that after a visit he made to a beacon-lighting event in his Sutton Coldfield constituency to mark the Platinum Jubilee, it was clear the public had turned against Mr Johnson.

‘As I walked through the crowd it was very clear that the Prime Minister has not only lost the dressing room he has also lost quite a lot of people in the stands,’ he said.

Rebels have been circulating a dossier branding Mr Johnson the ‘Conservative Corbyn’ and raising alarm about a looming electoral hammering from both Labour and the Lib Dems.

Keir Starmer gleefully seized on the news, saying that it showed even Tories did not trust Mr Johnson.  

However, Mr Johnson’s allies have been warning of a damaging civil war and even an early election.

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.

It is a secret ballot though, so members of the government could oppose with premier without it becoming public.

One major problem for the rebels is the lack of an obvious replacement for Mr Johnson.

Rishi Sunak, previously regarded as the favourite, was also fined over Partygate and there is no other front runner.

Former Cabinet minister Mr Hunt has been touted as a contender, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is riding high with party grass roots. Tom Tugendhat is the only MP to have openly declared he wants to be PM. 

The reception for Mr Johnson at a Jubilee event at St Paul’s on Friday, which included booing mixed with cheering, seems to have swayed some MPs into joining the revolt.

Boris Johnson put a brave face on the situation at Jubilee celebrations with wife Carrie yesterday - despite having been informed by Sir Graham Brady shortly beforehand that he faces a no-confidence vote

Boris Johnson put a brave face on the situation at Jubilee celebrations with wife Carrie yesterday – despite having been informed by Sir Graham Brady shortly beforehand that he faces a no-confidence vote  

Tory runners and riders if Boris pays the price for Partygate 

Tory MPs have been licking their lips at the thought of entering No10 as PM for months as Boris Johnson’s backing within the party collapsed as a result of Partygate and other scandals.

Possible candidates to succeed him come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM’s handling of the Covid pandemic.

In a letter to the PM, Mr Penrose accused him of breaching the code on the grounds that he had failed to provide adequate leadership over Partygate.

Mr Penrose said: ‘The only fair conclusion to draw from the Sue Gray report is that you have breached a fundamental principle of the Ministerial Code – a clear resigning matter.

‘But your letter to your independent adviser on the Ministerial Code ignores this absolutely central, non-negotiable issue completely. And, if it had addressed it, it is hard to see how it could have reached any other conclusion than that you had broken the code.’

He added: ‘As a result, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be honourable or right for me to remain as your anti-corruption champion after reaching this conclusion, nor for you to remain as Prime Minister either.

‘I hope you will stand aside so we can look to the future and choose your successor.’

The PM’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson did not accept that he violated the code.

‘The Prime Minister addressed this last week. He set out his rationale on the code. Part of that involved correcting the parliamentary record at the earliest possible opportunity,’ the spokesman said.

‘The PM has set out his view in relation to the code and the fixed penalty notice that he received, both in terms of is overall response to Sue Gray but also addressing some of the points that were raised by Lord Geidt (the adviser on the code), last week.’

In what amounted to throwing his hat into the ring, Mr Hunt said: ‘Having been trusted with power, Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve.

‘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.’

Who is Graham Brady? 

Known as the ‘shop steward’ of Tory MPs or the ‘mouthpiece’ of backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady is the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee.

The Committee’s role is to oversee the election of Conservative leaders, or confidence votes in a current leader.

It has historically been referred to as the ‘men in grey suits’ – due to its influence over a Tory leader’s fortunes.

Sir Graham became 1922 Committee chair shortly after David Cameron’s Coalition government came to power in May 2010.

The Altrincham and Sale West MP, who  was first elected to Parliament in 1997, had previously been a shadow minister but quit the role in 2007 due to Mr Cameron’s opposition to grammar schools.

The 55-year-old voted against same-sex marriage in 2013 and was a supporter of Brexit ahead of the EU referendum in 2016.

He was a critic of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, although he eventually voted in favour of it at the third time of asking. 

Sir Graham was also a frequent opponent of Covid lockdown restrictions imposed by Boris Johnson during the pandemic. 

In his role as 1922 Committee chair, Sir Graham oversaw the confidence vote in Mrs May in December 2018, which the former PM won by 200 votes to 117.

However, he did not oversee the election of Mr Johnson as Mrs May’s successor.

Sir Graham resigned as 1922 Committee chair in May 2019 in order to ‘consider’ making a leadership bid himself.

He never actually put himself forward as a leadership candidate and returned as 1922 Committee chair in September 2019.

Sir Graham was re-elected as chair in July last year after surviving a bid by allies of Mr Johnson to oust him from the powerful post. 

His role in Mrs May’s eventual downfall  as PM saw him revealed to have been the last person to meet with her before she spoke outside Number 10 to confirm her resignation in May 2019.

He was said to have gone into the meeting with an envelope of votes from the 1922 executive on whether to change the rules of the party to allow a second challenge to her leadership within 12 months.

Sir Graham is now poised to become the first ever 1922 chair to oversee two confidence votes in Tory leaders.

Guildford MP Angela Richardson said she would vote against Mr Johnson.

‘From the very beginning of the issues surrounding the Prime Minister’s conduct during the lockdown period and his subsequent answers to parliamentary questions, I have been consistent in my views about the standards people expect of those in high office,’ she said.

‘Last week, I made a statement following the publication of the full Sue Gray report that questioned whether those standards had been upheld.

‘The deep disappointment I expressed in a previous statement in January has not abated.

‘Given that, I will be voting no confidence in Boris Johnson this evening.’

As ministers toured broadcast studios, Mr Zahawi said it would be a ‘disaster’ if Mr Johnson was ousted – but refused to rule himself out as a candidate to replace him if it happened.

Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: ‘It would be a disaster for us to now rid ourselves of a leader who has made the tough calls when it really mattered to this nation.

‘To change a prime minister is to destabilise this Government when there is war in Europe. To destabilise the Government is a recipe for failure and for loss and I am not in the business of doing that.’

Pressed to say whether he could be a candidate in a leadership election if Mr Johnson was defeated, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I am not going to do that because Boris will be our Prime Minister.’

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.

Sir Graham told journalists in Westminster: ‘I notified the Prime Minister yesterday that the threshold had been reached.

‘We agreed the timetable for the confidence vote to take place and he shared my view – which is also in line with the rules that we have in place – that that vote should happen as soon as could reasonably take place and that would be today.’

He refused to confirm how many letters had been received or when the threshold had been passed but said ‘it is slightly complicated because some colleagues had asked specifically that it should not be until the end of the Jubilee celebrations’.

In a letter to the PM 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’. 

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.

But Sir Graham acknowledged that those procedures could be changed.

‘Technically it’s possible for rules to be changed but the rule at present is there would be a period of grace,’ he told reporters.

Theresa May emerged victorious from a confidence vote, but was later forced to announce her resignation under threat that procedures would be redrawn to grant another ballot. 

The pound rallied against the US dollar and the euro after it was announced that the vote of confidence will go ahead.

Sterling rose 0.6 per cent to 1.26 US dollars and 0.4 per cent to 1.17 euros.

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, said: ‘The pound will be closely watched this evening, with above average volatility expected around tonight’s decision.

Boris follows in footsteps of Thatcher and Heath with leadership vote 

Boris Johnson will follow in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher as he faces only the seventh confidence vote in a serving Tory leader in modern history tonight.

Five previous leaders have faced the wrath of their backbenchers, with two, Ted Heath in 1975 and Sir Iain Duncan Smith in 2003, losing the vote and having to immediately resign.

But the Iron Lady was forced to quit in 1990 despite winning, because the margin of victory was so narrow she was convinced that she could not continue.

Here are the times when Tory MPs went over the top and publicly tried to force their leader from office: 

MARGARET THATCHER

DATE: December 5 1989

WHY IT HAPPENED: Challenge by backbencher Sir Anthony Meyer

RESULT:

Margaret Thatcher: 314 (90.5pc)

Sir Anthony Meyer: 33 (9.5pc)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Mrs Thatcher comfortably won the vote against the stalking horse candidate – but the fact that so many voted against her indicated she could face problems in the future.

MARGARET THATCHER

DATE: November 20 1990

WHY IT HAPPENED: Challenge by former defence secretary Michael Heseltine

RESULT:

Margaret Thatcher: 204 (54.8pc)

Michael Heseltine: 152 (40.9pc)

Abstentions: 16 (4.3pc)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Mrs Thatcher was badly wounded by Heseltine’s high level of support in the first ballot, which occurred when she was attending a summit in Paris. Although she received more votes, the rules at the time stated she needed to garner 15 per cent more than her rival to avoid a second ballot. The day after she declared: ‘I fight on, I fight to win’, but her support was ebbing away and she announced her intention to resign on 22 November.

JOHN MAJOR

DATE: July 4 1995

WHY IT HAPPENED: Challenge by Welsh secretary John Redwood

RESULT:

John Major: 218 (66.3pc)

John Redwood: 89 (27.1pc)

Abstentions / spoilt: 22 (6.6pc)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Major had tried to flush out his rivals by demanding they ‘Put up or shut up’. Privately he said he would resign if he received fewer than 215 votes. In the event, he received only three more votes – and he limped on for two years before his defeat by Tony Blair.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH

DATE: October 29 2003

WHY IT HAPPENED: 25 letters of no confidence received

RESULT: 90 voted against (45.5pc)

75 voted for (55.5pc)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Mr Duncan Smith resigned that night, and Tory MPs coalesced around Michael Howard who was elected unopposed.

THERESA MAY

DATE: December 12 2018

WHY IT HAPPENED: 48 letters of no confidence received

RESULT:

200 voted for (63.1pc)

117 voted against (36.9pc)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: To get the backing of her MPs, Mrs May had to promise to step down after getting a Brexit deal through Parliament. But that never happened, and she was gone in seven months.

 

‘If Johnson loses, sterling, which in part signals international investor confidence in the UK, could get a boost and reverse some of the recent negativity.’

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.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Javid said: ‘If he wins then that draws a line under this.’

Pressed on whether it will bring closure and unite the Conservative Party, Mr Javid said: ‘If he wins, then that’s a win – and by the way I do think he will win, but that’s obviously a decision for all my colleagues.

‘But at that point we draw a line under this because that’s, I think, more than anything, that is what the country wants to see.’

‘Is it right to have a vote? As I say, that’s a decision for my colleagues, I have full respect for them,’ he added.

‘We have this vote but, as a democratic party, you follow the rules and a win is a win and then we unite behind our leader and keep on delivering – that’s what this is about.’

Mr Javid said: ‘I’m supporting the Prime Minister and I hope more of my colleagues do tonight.

‘The Prime Minister will speak to my colleagues at the 1922 meeting tonight and then they will of course make up their own mind.

‘And, as I say that, let me be clear, I love my party. I think there’s a lot that we can be proud of. It’s a very proud democratic party.

‘No leader that I’ve known of my party has got 100 per cent support from every single colleague but we make decisions through due process openly and transparently, and tonight is an opportunity to put all this behind us and get on with the job.’

As Cabinet circled the wagons around Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak tweeted: ‘From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.

‘I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs.’

Communities Secretary Michael Gove posted: ‘I’ll be voting for Boris this evening. The PM got the big decisions right on Brexit and Covid.

‘We need to focus now on defending Ukraine, driving levelling-up and generating growth. We need to move past this moment and unite behind Boris to meet these challenges.’

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden tweeted: ‘I will be voting for Boris Johnson in the confidence vote tonight.

‘He’s demonstrated real leadership in getting the big calls right as PM – Brexit, vaccines, reopening and Ukraine.

‘I hope after this vote we can come together and focus on the future. Let’s face the big challenges united and focused on delivery.’

Foreign Office minister James Cleverley tweeted: ‘I’m not going to go flaky on him now.’

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the Prime Minister has his ‘full backing’, adding: ‘He got the key big decisions right… he has apologised for mistakes made, and we owe it to our constituents to focus on delivering to make lives better.’

Many Conservative backbenchers have also voiced their support for Mr Johnson, with Beaconsfield MP Joy Morrissey describing Monday’s vote as ‘a self-indulgent distraction the only effect of which will be to embolden a pitiful opposition’.

Others including Rachel Maclean, Mark Jenkinson, Stuart Anderson, Simon Clarke and Will Quince also said they will be backing the Prime Minister.

But Ms Mordaunt seemed to leave herself some wriggle room when describing her attitude towards Mr Johnson.  

‘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,’ she told her local newspaper in Portsmouth.

‘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.’

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.’

Sir Keir Starmer said the public mood has changed with a ‘general sense that this man doesn’t really tell the truth’.

Speaking to LBC about the upcoming confidence vote in Boris Johnson by Tory MPs, Sir Keir said: ‘I think the mood has changed.

‘I think the public have made their mind up about this man. They don’t think he’s really telling the truth about many, many things – not just partygate – but just the general sense that this man doesn’t really tell the truth, (he) can’t be trusted.

No10 has been circulating a briefing note to MPs explaining why they should continue to back the PM

No10 has been circulating a briefing note to MPs explaining why they should continue to back the PM 

Andrew Bridgen, one of the Tory rebels

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Pictured left, Andrew Bridgen, one of the Tory rebels. Picture right, Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted Mr Johnson can survive

Pound rallies after confidence vote news 

The pound rallied against the US dollar and the euro after it was announced that the vote of confidence in Boris Johnson would go ahead.

Sterling rose 0.6 per cent to 1.26 US dollars and 0.4 per cent to 1.17 euros.

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, said: ‘The pound will be closely watched this evening, with above average volatility expected around tonight’s decision.

‘If Johnson loses, sterling, which in part signals international investor confidence in the UK, could get a boost and reverse some of the recent negativity.’

The Labour leader also said: ‘We’ve got a prime minister trying to cling on to his job and most people would say ‘your job is to help me through the cost-of-living crisis and you’re not doing it because you’re distracted’.’

Sir Keir said that even if Mr Johnson wins, ‘I think history tells us that this is the beginning of the end.

‘If you look at the previous examples of no confidence votes, even when Conservative Prime Ministers survived those, he might survive it tonight, the damage is already done and usually they fall reasonably swiftly afterwards.’

Sir Keir said he is ‘different’ from the Prime Minister, as he reiterated his pledge to step down from his role if he receives a fixed penalty notice from Durham Police.

Asked on LBC radio about the incident where the Labour leader was pictured drinking a beer with colleagues during a meal break while campaigning during lockdown, Sir Keir said: ‘I am absolutely clear that there was no breach of the rules.

‘In my case, we were on the road with a team. We stopped for something to eat. There was no breach of the rules and I’ve made that clear over and over again.

But he added that if the police issue him with a fixed penalty notice, ‘I will do the right thing and I will step down because it’s very important, I think, for everybody to hear and to know that not all politicians are the same.

‘I think the Prime Minister has made a big mistake by trying to cling on in relation to the law-breaking that we know went on in Downing Street.

‘I’m different – and if that fixed penalty notice is issued then… I will step down from my posts because I do believe that democracy relies on integrity and honesty, and I hold others to high standards so I’m going to hold myself to those high standards.’

Ministers Ben Wallace, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tipped to join former high-fliers Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt in any run to succeed PM if he loses confidence vote 

Tory MPs have been licking their lips at the thought of entering No10 as Prime Minister for months as Boris Johnson’s backing within the party collapsed as a result of Partygate and other scandals.

Possible candidates to succeed him come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM’s handling of the Covid pandemic.

But that could be part of the problem facing Conservative MPs who will cast their ballots in the no confidence vote tonight – who is the alternative to Boris Johnson who can unite the party?

The PM sounded defiance after 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.

With the results declared shortly afterwards, it raises the possibility that Mr Johnson’s tenure could come to a crashing end less than three years after he won a stunning 80-strong Commons majority.

However, if 50 per cent of MPs back him in theory he is safe for a year – with some insurgents fearing they have moved too early ahead of key by-elections later this month.

Cabinet ministers immediately rallied round, with Ms Truss, Mr Wallace and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all giving him their backing.

Boris Johnson is the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll

Boris Johnson is the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll

But there is speculation that some might be about to quit to join the insurrection, with trade minister Penny Mordaunt seen as on ‘resignation watch’.

However, as tonight’s ballot is confidential, there is no need for ministers to resign to vote against him, other than as a signal of intent.

Here we look at the potential runners and riders in the unlikely event 

Liz Truss 

  • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Suffolk MP
  • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
  • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
  • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

The 46-year-old  Foreign Secretary has been regularly linked with a tilt at No10. The former international trade secretary was promoted last year to succeed Dominic Raab.

The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

But while she has been hawkish over the war in Ukraine, the conflict has hit her prospects after several stumbles. 

Prior to the February 24 invasion she visited Russia for talks with her Kremlin counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which she overtly channeled the style of Margaret Thatcher on a similar trip 35 years previously.

Her use of Instagram to share images of her looking tough and commanding has also drawn comment. 

Liz Truss in Moscow this year

Margaret Thatcher in 1987

The Foreign Secretary posed for pictures in Red Square in a fur coat and hat, 35 years after the former Tory premier did the same on a visit to the then Soviet Union.

But she received a bit of a mauling from Putin’s attack dog, who said their talks had been like ‘the deaf talking to the blind’.

She was also criticised early in the conflict for urging Britons to go to fight for Russia even if they have no military experience, advice later contradicted by senior military figures.

But the Remain voter from 2016 has become a born-again Brexiteer in the years since, something that will aid her in any vote. 

As Foreign Secretary she has taken on responsibility for negotiating changes to the Brexit agreement with the EU to sort out the political impasse in Northern Ireland. A deadlock-breaking agreement is unlikely but unilateral action by the UK is being mooted, which could help boost her credentials.  

Jeremy Hunt

  • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Suffolk MP
  • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
  • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
  • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

Jeremy Hunt lost heavily to Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election that followed the resignation of Theresa May. 

But he is showing no signs of letting the mauling at the hands of Tory members dissuade him three years later.

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks. 

And he has consistently refused to rule out running to replace Boris Johnson if he quits. 

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

Last month he refused to say whether Boris Johnson was ‘honest’ as he warned the Prime Minister has a ‘big mountain to climb’ in winning back Tory voters.

The South West Surrey MP cast doubt on the PM’s ability to once again prove a Tory vote winner as he insisted it would be a ‘mistake’ to dismiss the party’s local election losses as ‘mid-term blues’. 

But the former Cabinet minister insisted now was not the time for renewed efforts to topple Mr Johnson and said he ‘hoped’ the PM would lead the Tories into the next general election.

The comments were seen as a warning shot to the PM – and a clear message to Tory MPs – that he is waiting in the wings should Mr Johnson continue to stumble. 

Like Truss he is a former Remain voter who has become a convert to the Brexit cause. He also has his own fair share of gaffs in his locker, including describing his Chinese wife Lucia – with whom he has two children – as ‘Japanese’ in an interview.   

Ben Wallace 

  • 52-year-old former British Army officer is Defence Secretary
  • He is currently the most popular minister with the Tory grassroots 
  • Sandhurst-educated father of three has led efforts to arm Ukraine to fight off the Russian invasion
  • Was targeted by Russian pranksters who managed to speak to him on a video call in March

Currently the most popular minister with Tory grassroots, according to the Conservative Home website. 

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War. 

The 52-year-old former Scots Guards officer has been at the forefront of efforts to supply Kyiv with weapons and expertise to fight off the Russian invasion, which has boosted his support base and name recognition.

The Sandhurst-educated father of three has overcome a Russian attempt to humiliate him after a Kremlin-backed prankster managed to get through to him on a video call, parts of which were later broadcast on YouTube.

He was asked if he supported Ukraine’s ‘nuclear aims’ by a man claiming to be the PM of Ukraine.

He has also avoided being implicated in the worst failures of the UK’s retreat from Afghanistan last summer, with blame being generally laid at the door of the Foreign Office.

The Defence Secretary's low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War.

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War.

Last week he confirmed Britain is to arm Ukraine with precision-guided M270 rockets that have a range of up to 50 miles to help match Russia’s artillery arsenal.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded heavier weapons to counter Russia’s artillery. Germany and the US have also pledged long-range weapon systems.

Today he tweeted: ‘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.’

Rishi Sunak 

  • Chancellor was top-rated minister at the end of 2021 after Covid largesse
  • But profile has gone into freefall after a series of controversies in 2022
  • Wife revealed to be a non-dom taxpayer living in Downing Street
  • Sunak himself also faced questions over US Green Card possession 

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson. 

His largesse with taxpayers’ cash during the Covid crisis – furlough payments and other measures – and slick social media campaigns made him widely popular within the party and with the wider electorate.

It was a rapid rise to the top for a minister who only became Chancellor weeks before lockdown kicked in early in 2020. 

But the popularity of ‘Brand Rishi’ has taken a tumble in 2022 amid a series of controversies and rows with No10.

In the spring it was revealed his multi-millionaire heiress wife Akshata Murty was revealed to be living in Downing Street while having non-dom tax status.

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

Sunak told the Sun: 'I'm an elected politician. So I know what I signed up for. It's different when people are trying to attack you by coming at your family and particularly your wife. It's unpleasant, especially when she hasn't done anything wrong'

Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

She has legally avoided paying a huge UK tax bill by paying £30,000 a year to register as based in India.

He insisted she hasn’t ‘done anything wrong’ while accusing his critics of ‘smearing her to get at him’. She later agreed to pay full UK tax.

Later it emerged Mr Sunak, a father of two and former international banker, himself held a US Green Card for a year into his term leading the Treasury. 

While the status would not save him any money on his tax bill, it carries a responsibility to make the United States ‘your permanent home’.

There were also a series of rows with No 10 after recovery spending and his involvement with Partygate: he received a £50 fine for attending Boris Johnson’s surprise – and rule-breaking – birthday party in No10 in June 2020, even though he claimed he was just passing through on his way to a meeting.

His supporters blamed No10 for embroiling him in the controversy, souring an already acidic relationship within Downing Street.  

Today he tweeted: ‘From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.

‘I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs.’

Penny Mordaunt

  • Trade minister and Royal Navy reservist who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019
  • Ignored other ministers tweeting support for PM to instead write about D-Day
  • She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary
  • Appeared on reality TV show in 2014 wearing just a swimsuit 

Penny Mordaunt has already emerged as possibly one of the least subtle potential candidates to run.

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP. 

‘Today I will be attending Portsmouth’s commemoration service to remember the efforts and sacrifice of #DDay,’ she wrote.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister. 

Supporters have pushed her credentials as the potential unity candidate any leadership race appears to lack – she is a Brexit voter who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019. 

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

Ms Mordaunt hs already been on resignation watch once this year. In January she spoke out against a proposed £1.2 billion underwater electricity cable project backed by a Russian oligarch and major Tory donor.

She opposed plans by Aquind, co-owned by Alexander Temerko, to construct the interconnector under the Channel between Normandy and Portsmouth.

Temerko, who previously ran a firm producing weapons for Russia’s military, and Aquind have given more than £1 million to the Tories and the oligarch has regularly featured in photos at fundraisers with Prime Ministers and their Cabinets.

Government sources said Mordaunt was ready to quit if the cable was approved. The project was later rejected.

Tom Tugendhat: Iraq and Afghanistan veteran turned China and foreign affairs hawk

  • An Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • The son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.
  • Father of two said in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

Another Tory MP with military experience. Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is a confirmed Boris critic who has taken aim at the government over its attitude to China and the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

However, some are concerned about his lack of political experience and voting for a second posh PM in a row. He is the son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.

Mr Tugendhat, who is married with two children, has previously made clear that he would fancy a tilt at the top job, saying in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the 'best chance for a fresh start'.

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

He was a member of the Territorial Army when the Iraq War broke out in 2003 and he was mobilised as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines. He went into Iraq as part of Operation TELIC – the initial invasion.

After the war he returned to a job in the City of London but then went back to Iraq to help with the economic reconstruction of the country.

In 2006 the Foreign Office then asked Mr Tugendhat to go to Afghanistan to help grow its national security council. The Tory MP can speak Arabic, Dari and French.

The Tory MP was applauded in the House of Commons during a debate on the UK’s exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 as he detailed his experience in the country.

He told a silent chamber: ‘Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage—through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made.

‘I have been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane. I have watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us. This week has torn open some of those wounds, has left them raw and left us all hurting.’

Nadhim Zahawi: Minister who came to the UK as a child refugee and made a fortune 

  • Kurdish Iraqi arrived in the Uk as a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s regime 
  • One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he set up polling company YouGov
  • He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million. 

Mr Zahawi is seen by some as an outside choice to replace the PM. He has a strong personal back story that culminated in him becoming the first Kurdish Iraqi MP.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering. 

One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he went on to be named ‘entrepreneur of the year’ by Ernst & Young and set up successful polling company YouGov. 

He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King's College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

The father-of-three was elected MP in 2010 – the first Kurdish Iraqi to be elected to Parliament.

The Brexit-supporting minister is trusted by Number 10 and is a regular feature on the morning media round.

Despite initially backing Dominic Raab for Conservative party leader in 2019, he has been loyal to Mr Johnson ever since.

He was previously children’s minister from January 2018 to July 2019, during which time he attended the controversial Presidents Club Ball.

He was said to have been given a dressing down by the chief whip after complaints of sexism and harassment at the all-male gathering for the business elite.

During the MPs expenses scandal, he was forced to apologise for claiming taxpayers’ money to heat his stables on his Warwickshire estate.

 

 

 

How does the confidence vote work? Who could replace Boris? What happens if he loses… and could he resign anyway if he only wins by a narrow margin? 

Boris Johnson is facing a dramatic vote of no confidence today as rebel Tory MPs seek to kill off his leadership. 

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, confirmed this morning that he has now received the 54 letters from party colleagues needed to trigger a vote. 

The secret ballot, which will take place at Westminster at between 6pm and 8pm, raises the possibility that Mr Johnson’s tenure could come to a crashing end less than three years after he won a stunning 80-strong Commons majority.  

It comes after a steady stream of Tory MPs called publicly for the Prime Minister to stand down in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into illegal Covid parties in No 10 and Whitehall.

In order to oust the Prime Minister however the rebels will need 180 MPs, and allies of Mr Johnson – including members of the Cabinet – have made clear he is determined to fight to stay on.

Here are the key questions about the upcoming vote. 

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? 

Conservative Party rules allow MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader, with much of the responsibility resting in the hands of the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.   

A total of 54 letters of no confidence from Tory MPs, representing 15 per cent of the 359-strong parliamentary party, are needed to trigger a vote.

Sir Graham has received a steady stream of letters in recent days as Tories spent time in their constituencies consulting local parties about their position.

He announced this morning that the threshold had been reached – after waiting for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to conclude.  

At least 50 per cent of Tory MPs must vote ‘no confidence’ for the Prime Minister to lose.

How many Tory MPs have sent letters so far? 

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public.  

That means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are at any one time – and he is famously secretive about the numbers.

Almost every day last week Tory MPs declared they had submitted letters of no confidence in their leader. 

More than 30 Tory MPs have publicly urged the PM to resign amid the fallout from Partygate, but they have not all confirmed whether they have submitted letters.

Jesse Norman – a long-term supporter of Mr Johnson –  today became the latest Tory MP to announce that he had submitted a letter to Sir Graham. 

In a letter to the PM 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’. 

Why now? 

Earlier this year Mr Johnson became the first serving UK Prime Minister found to have broken the law.

He refused to stand down after receiving a single fine for attending a lockdown-breaching event in Downing Street in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

But support for him among Conservatives has ebbed away in recent weeks following the publication of an internal inquiry which found he presided over a culture of such parties that ran late into the night and even featured a drunken fight among staff.

A host of Tory MPs have come forward to say they do not believe the party can win the next general election under Mr Johnson’s leadership.

Opinion polls have shown deep public disapproval over the scandal, with large majorities of people saying he knowingly lied about ‘Partygate’ and that he should resign.

The Tories have suffered several electoral setbacks during his tenure, including losing traditionally safe seats to the Liberal Democrats in by-elections and hundreds of councillors in local elections in early May.

The party is also predicted to lose two more by-elections later this month, in southwest and northern England. 

What happens between now and the vote this evening?

Between now and the vote between 6pm and 8pm this evening, Tory MPs will be subjected to a frantic wave of lobbying by the Prime Minister and his allies. 

MPs will also be collared for their voting intentions in order to target lobbying efforts at potential rebels. 

Cabinet ministers have immediately rallied round Mr Johnson, so will – outwardly at least – be joining attempts to push the vote in his favour. 

Opponents of the PM are likely to be similarly active.    

How with the physical voting process work? 

A ballot box that is kept in the office of one of the 1922 Committee’s executive members will be used for the vote. 

It is likely the box will be placed in the same room where MPs gather for meetings of the committee each week, at the centre of a long corridor on the first floor of the Palace of Westminster, overlooking the Thames. 

Tory MPs will vote between 6pm and 8pm by secret ballot and, just like at a general election, photography will be banned. 

This is intended to prevent the PM’s allies from demanding photographic evidence that an MP has voted in his favour. 

The idea is for MPs to be allowed to vote according to their conscience. Any MP who is away from Westminster can nominate a proxy to vote on their behalf. 

Sir Graham Brady oversees the process as chair of the backbench 1922 Committee

Sir Graham Brady oversees the process as chair of the backbench 1922 Committee 

When will the result be announced? 

The process is a simple yes-or-no vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs. 

Sir Graham said arrangements for when the announcement would take place will be released ‘later today’. 

Given results will be counted straight away and there are not a particularly large number of ballot papers to go through, it is likely to take place very quickly. 

It is likely Sir Graham will do as he did in 2018, and assemble MPs and journalists in the same committee room where voting took place earlier in the day. 

He will then announce that the parliamentary party does or does not have confidence in Mr Johnson, before revealing the number of votes cast on each side.    

Sir Graham said he hoped there would be a ‘clear result’. 

What happens if he loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected. 

In a leadership contest MPs whittle down the field of contenders to two before party members have the final say.    

How does a Tory leadership contest work?

If Mr Johnson is voted out or forced to resign, a leadership contest to replace him as the head of the Tory Party would take place – although he is likely to remain in post as Prime Minister until a successor is in place.

The contest takes place in two stages.

In the first stage, Conservative MPs put themselves forward as candidates.

All Tory MPs then vote in a series of rounds to reduce the number of candidates until only two remain.

The second stage of the contest sees the two remaining candidates put to a vote of Conservative Party members.

Mr Johnson won the leadership contest in 2019 against Jeremy Hunt, following Theresa May’s resignation.  

And if he survives? 

If Mr Johnson survives, under Conservative Party rules no further confidence vote can be held by the 1922 Committee for another year.

However, Sir Graham today acknowledged that Mr Johnson will not necessarily be safe even if he survives tonight’s vote. 

Although the Conservative committee’s rules say there could not be another confidence vote for 12 months, Sir Graham said those procedures could be changed.

Theresa May - pictured with her husband Philip at the Platinum Jubilee Thanksgiving service at St Paul's - also faced a no confidence vote

Theresa May – pictured with her husband Philip at the Platinum Jubilee Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s – also faced a no confidence vote 

‘Technically it’s possible for rules to be changed but the rule at present is there would be a period of grace,’ he told reporters.

But even if Mr Johnson survives the vote this evening, his leadership could be fatally undermined if a significant number of MPs vote against him. 

Could he resign anyway if he only wins by a narrow margin?

Technically yes, but the signals coming out of Number 10 suggest he is determined to fight on. 

‘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,’ a Downing Street 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.’

His reputation as a political survivor who has resisted a raft of other calls to resign in the past also suggests he would have to be forced out. 

Who could replace Mr Johnson? 

One major problem for the rebels is the lack of an obvious replacement for Mr Johnson.

Rishi Sunak, previously regarded as the favourite, was also fined over Partygate and there is no other front runner.

Former Cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt has been touted as a contender, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is riding high with party grass roots. Tom Tugendhat is the only MP to have openly declared he wants to be PM.

When was the mechanism to replace the leader last used? 

The last confidence vote was held in December 2018 when, after months of speculation, enough MPs decided they no longer had faith in Theresa May’s leadership. 

She won the contest 200 votes to 117 – making her immune to another challenge for a year.

But she was forced to announce her resignation the following spring amid another insurrection over Brexit, paving the way for Mr Johnson to take the helm. 

Fury over rebels’ dossier of doom

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

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.’

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