Boris Johnson faces a vote of no confidence in his leadership on Monday night in a dramatic escalation in tension between the Prime Minister and his own MPs.
Tory MPs will vote in a secret ballot from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on whether they want Johnson to continue as prime minister. Downing Street said the vote would be “a chance to end months of speculation”.
The vote was triggered after more than 54 MPs, or 15% of the parliamentary party, sent letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Conservative backbench committee, crossing the required threshold.
Johnson will spend Monday pleading with MPs to back him and his allies are confident he will survive the secret ballot. “If he wins, it will draw a line under it,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC.
Under party rules, Johnson will need to secure a simple majority of 180 MPs in a secret ballot to stay in office. The Prime Minister’s allies believe he will easily exceed that total.
Under current rules, he can then not be challenged for 12 months, although senior Tory MPs have not ruled out the possibility that the rules could be changed to allow another vote during that time.
But even if Johnson wins a vote of confidence, bitterness and the breakdown of party discipline are hard for a prime minister to mend. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, who survived a confidence vote in 2018, was absent a year later.
In a sign of the changing political terrain under Johnson’s feet, longtime supporter Jesse Norman, a former Treasury minister, issued a letter on Monday condemning the prime minister’s leadership as “a charade”.
He said Johnson had presided over “a culture of occasional law-breaking” at Number 10 when it came to parties during the Covid-19 lockdowns and the Prime Minister’s belief he had been vindicated by the report of the Senior civil servant Sue Gray on the partygate affair was “grotesque”.
Norman said Johnson’s plan to unilaterally rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol – part of his 2020 Brexit deal – would be “economically very damaging, politically reckless and almost certainly illegal”.
The former minister said the prime minister’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda was “ugly” and accused him of trying to divide the country on cultural and political grounds, importing elements of a “presidential” system in the United Kingdom.
Tory MPs had the opportunity to spend the past week in their constituencies during the parliamentary recess and many used the time to talk to constituents and reflect on Johnson’s leadership.
The four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend, in which Britain came together in a series of national celebrations, also included boos from Johnson as he arrived at a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Conservative discontent over the partygate scandal has crystallized anger, but Johnson’s divisive policies and his decision last week to approve another tax hike – this time on energy companies – have infuriated some on the right.
Downing Street said in a statement: “Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the Government to draw a line and move forward, respecting the priorities of the people.
“The Prime Minister welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they are united and focused on the issues that matter to voters, there is no more political strength. tremendous.”
Senior cabinet officials – including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Upgrade Secretary Michael Gove and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – were all quick to back Johnson publicly, either on Twitter or in media interviews.