The removal of Tory leaders can be brutal – or down to a bloodless ballot

In reality, Boris Johnson’s fate now lies in the hands of a few of his most senior cabinet colleagues, writes Andrew Woodcock

Friday 14 January 2022 01:11
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<p>Tory lore has it that ‘he who wields the dagger never claims the throne’ </p>

Tory lore has it that ‘he who wields the dagger never claims the throne’

Boris Johnson is facing a moment of maximum peril for his leadership, as Westminster awaits the result of a probe into a series of alleged breaches of Covid rules at 10 Downing Street.

Following the prime minister’s apology on Wednesday, the House of Commons has been abuzz with gossip about Tory MPs declaring no confidence in Johnson and cabinet ministers preparing bids to oust him.

Once upon a time, a Tory leader who had lost the confidence of his party would have been quietly removed by means of a discreet visit from the unidentified grandees known as the “men in grey suits”. In more modern times, a “stalking horse” candidate with no real prospect of victory would be sent out to issue a challenge to the leader as a means of testing the water for more serious contenders.

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