Rishi Sunak will hold back from trying to bring Boris Johnson down – for now

Will the chancellor follow the example of Michael Heseltine or David Miliband, asks John Rentoul

Thursday 13 January 2022 17:52
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<p>Rishi Sunak was in Ilfracombe with Selaine Saxby, the Tory MP, while the prime minister was apologising to the nation </p>

Rishi Sunak was in Ilfracombe with Selaine Saxby, the Tory MP, while the prime minister was apologising to the nation

How might Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister come to an end? For a long time all eyes have been fixed on the inscrutable grin of Sir Graham Brady, who as chair of the 1922 Committee acts as the postbox for letters demanding a vote of confidence in the party leader.

But I cannot find any Conservative MP who thinks that anything like 54 of their number have sent their requests to Sir Graham, whether by letter or email. “More than four,” said one MP, asked how many letters have been sent. As four MPs have gone public calling for Johnson to go, this tells us little. The important fact is that the number of letters has not hit the threshold that requires Sir Graham to convene an impromptu news conference outside St Stephen’s entrance to the Palace of Westminster.

Attention switched yesterday, therefore, to the cabinet. The other way a prime minister might be dislodged is if one or more cabinet ministers resigns and says the prime minister should go. There would still have to be 54 MPs writing to Sir Graham to start a leadership contest, but the assumption is that this would definitely happen if members of the cabinet gave a lead.

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