Boris Johnson’s key allies are preparing to defend him in a challenge to his leadership, as they conceded it was increasingly likely that rebel Conservative MPs had reached the key threshold needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in the UK prime minister this week.
For such a vote to take place, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, must receive 54 letters calling for Johnson to go.
Allies of the prime minister said the threshold may have been reached following claims by a number of rebels on Sunday that they had enough support to trigger a ballot.
Paul Scully, business minister, told Channel 4 on Sunday: “We may well have a vote of no confidence [in Johnson’s position] but he will win that.”
One close ministerial ally of Johnson dismissed a report in The Sunday Times that the figure was as high as 67. “I’m confident it’s not 67. But whether it’s over 54 is another matter,” he said.
One leading critic of Johnson predicted that there was a 55 per cent chance of a confidence vote this week. “He is on the skids,” the MP said.
Tory MPs have been taking soundings from their constituents and local party associations about Johnson’s future over the long Jubilee bank holiday.
“I think Brady will announce tomorrow and if he doesn’t, others will put letters in. It’s past the point of no return,” another influential Conservative MP predicted on Sunday. He noted that some Tories want to physically hand a letter in instead of using email or WhatsApp.
Brady, who declined to comment, is the only person who knows exactly how many MPs have submitted no-confidence letters.
But Grant Shapps, transport secretary and one of Johnson’s key parliamentary organisers, told the BBC he did not believe there was enough support in his party for a ballot on Johnson’s leadership to be called in the coming days.
Shapps, who was instrumental in aiding Johnson’s campaign for the Tory party leadership in 2019 and…
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