Jacob Rees-Mogg says general election needed if Boris Johnson ousted

Cabinet minister urges Tory MPs to ‘look at the bigger picture’

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 26 January 2022 07:52
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Boris Johnson was 'ambushed with a cake', claims loyal Tory MP

Cabinet minister Jacob-Rees Mogg has claimed there would have to be a general election if Boris Johnson was ousted by his party and replaced with a new prime minister.

There is no rule that requires a new Tory leader who enters No 10 to call a general election – and changes of prime minister between elections have been commonplace over the past century.

Yet the Commons leader claimed that Britain had moved to “an essentially presidential system” and said any replacement leader would be “well-advised” to go to the polls.

Warning Tory MPs against a leadership challenge in the wake of the partygate scandal, Mr Rees-Mogg urged people to “look at the bigger picture” and not “prejudge” the outcome of the police probe into parties.

He told BBC Newsnight: “It is my view that we have moved, for better or worse, to essentially a presidential system and that therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party, and that any prime minister would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said cabinet was still behind the beleaguered prime minister. “We have a system of collective responsibility … If [ministers] remain in the cabinet they are supporting the prime minister.”

Referring to the birthday gathering at No 10 in June 2020, he added: “We’re taking about a slice of cake – we have no sense of proportionality … Trying to speculate on bits of gossip and tittle-tattle around the report doesn’t really get us anywhere.”

Mr Johnson is set to face further questions over a police investigation into partygate as No 10 braces for the submission of a report into possible lockdown breaches.

A Downing Street source said that Sue Gray had not, as of Wednesday morning, handed in her findings about alleged coronavirus rule-breaking parties held at the top of government.

The senior civil servant’s inquiry had been expected to be finalised this week, with reports suggesting it could be published later on Wednesday afternoon, or possibly on Thursday.

Some Conservative MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson’s resignation, but others have said they will await the publication of the Gray report before trying to trigger a vote of no confidence.

One former Conservative minister – who has made up their mind that Mr Johnson must be replaced – told The Independent: “A serving prime minister investigated by the police is a national embarrassment. If the Gray report is really bad there will a deluge [of letters].”

One loyal MP claimed Mr Johnson was “ambushed with a cake” during his No 10 birthday gathering held during lockdown restrictions.

Conor Burns defended the prime minister over the Downing Street event on 19 June 2020 – and claimed it was not a “pre-mediated” party.

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