Senior Tories say a plot to oust Boris Johnson has lost momentum
Senior Tories say a backbench plot to trigger a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister’s leadership has lost momentum after a leading rebel MP defected to Labour. They believe Bury South MP Christian Wakeford’s turncoat behaviour has been a wake up call about the dangers of disunity.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees Mogg said: “People leaving the party reminds of how much we have to gain by staying together and supporting each other.”
He also denounced a call from Tory grandee David Davis for the Prime Minister’s resignation as “theatrical.”
And Mr Mogg told the Daily Express: “Boris is precisely the leader we need today. Thanks to him we are the first nation to be able to put the pandemic behind us.
“His bold decision over Christmas to avoid lockdown has enabled us finally to throw off our remaining restrictions.
“It is his charisma and agenda which won the Tories such a powerful mandate from the British people and his vision which will deliver Britain growth, prosperity, high-quality public services and falling crime.”
Another Tory insider said: “The defection will unite us rather than divide us.”
Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour
Loyalists also claimed that some rebels were getting cold feet and withdrawing letters sent to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbenchers, demanding a confidence vote.
The unity calls followed an extraordinary day of drama at Westminster with Mr Wakeford’s defection and Mr Davis urging the Prime Minister: “In the name of God, go!”
Mr Johnson’s press secretary confirmed the Prime Minister will contest any motion of no confidence in his leadership of his party.
Referring to Mr Wakeford’s defection, she said: “I think we’re obviously sorry to see a colleague ‑ who was elected by constituents, who voted for a Boris Johnson-led government ‑ leave and attempt to put Keir Starmer into No 10, which will be a disaster for the country.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer paraded their new recruit
Mr Wakeford’s decision to cross the floor, revealed minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, sent shockwaves around Westminster.
He accused the Prime Minister of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves” as he switched sides.
Labour paraded their new recruit, seating him directly behind their leader Sir Keir Starmer for the Commons clash.
But Mr Johnson shrugged off the defection and vowed to lead his party into the next general election.
“The Conservative party won Bury South for the first time in generations under this Prime Minister, with an agenda of uniting, levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South, and we will win again in Bury South at the next election under this Prime Minister,” he said to loud cheers from his supporters.
Later at PMQs, former Brexit Secretary David Davis became the most senior Tory MP to demand the Prime Minister’s resignation with a reference to departure of failed wartime prime minister Neville Chamberlain.
He said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that. So, I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear: Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain.
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”
After PMQs, Mr Davis said he spoke out because he was angry about Mr Johnson appearing to blame others for the party row in a television interview earlier this week.
He said: “What he essentially said was ‘it’s not my fault’, undermining his apology from last week. Nobody told me what my rules were? It sounds pompous, but there’s a moral requirement of leadership.
“If you make a mistake, you’ve got to accept the blame, not try to blame somebody else.”
He added: “The party is going to have to make a decision or we face dying a death of 1,000 cuts.”
Andrew Bridgen, one of seven Tory MPs who have publicly confirmed they have sent letters calling for a confidence vote, said the rebels were close to the threshold of 54 needed for a confidence vote.
Mr Bridgen claimed a vote will come next week after civil servant Sue Gray publishes the findings of her Cabinet Office probe into the party claims.
He said: “I heard first-hand last night that another 20 from the 2019 intake will be going in today.
“I would have thought that will encourage a considerable number of others who are wavering to put their letters in.
“I think we will get to the threshold of 54 this week. Graham Brady will announce we are having a confidence vote next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Vote of no confidence process
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who has also called for the Prime Minister to quit, said: “I think what we’ve seen over the last few days is more and more MPs publicly saying they take a similar position to me that regretfully they’ve reached this conclusion.
“And there’s a feeling that we’re getting closer and closer to the 54 number of letters required to go into the 1922 Committee
“Which suggests that there are far more than those of us who have publicly stated our position that are unhappy with the current Prime Minister and his position leading the Conservative Party.”
In the Commons, senior Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) told the Prime Minister “for God’s sake, keep going”.
He said: “But for this Prime Minister we would have had far more severe lockdowns and restrictions, so may I say to him, please Prime Minister remain true to your instincts, please sweep away all these remaining controls like isolation which are crippling the NHS and may say to him lastly to paraphrase Leo Amery for God’s sake, keep going.”
Mr Johnson replied: “That’s right, I haven’t sat here quite long enough, indeed nothing like long enough in my view … I think that masks do erode our ability to educate properly and to learn properly, and I’m glad that they’re going.”
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