Boris Johnson will face no-confidence vote by July, says senior Tory MP

Former chief whip Mark Harper ‘very confident’ photos of parties will come out

Adam Forrest
Friday 22 April 2022 07:57 BST
Boris Johnson engages in tetchy exchange over Partygate

Boris Johnson is likely to face a no-confidence vote within three months over the Partygate scandal, according to a senior Conservative MP opposed to his leadership.

Mark Harper – who has sent a letter of no-confidence letter to the Tory backbenchers’ 1922 Committee – said he expected 54 letters needed to trigger a vote to be submitted before parliament’s summer recess in July.

“I think my colleagues will have enough evidence to make a decision,” the ex-chief whip told The Telegraph podcast. “We can resolve this matter then, and later we can give the country the fresh leadership it deserves.”

Asked if the Tory vote on Mr Johnson’s leadership would happen “before the summer break”, Mr Harper said: “Yes.”

Mr Harper also said he was “very confident that we’re going to see photographs” from Downing Street parties – which some expect will trigger a flurry of letters to the 1922 Committee chair.

Fellow Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who has called on Mr Johnson to quit, said a growing number of backbenchers were “troubled” by his leadership. “It’s now when, not if, a vote of confidence takes place,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The defence committee chair also told Sky News: “We must stop drinking that Kool-Aid that’s encouraging us to think this is all going to disappear ... More and more MPs believe it’s time the leadership baton is passed on.”

Mr Johnson faces the humiliation of a Commons inquiry into whether he lied to parliament over the No 10 parties, after a revolt by Tory MPs forced him to abandon an attempt to kick it into the long grass.

The privileges committee investigation is likely to trigger the release of demining photos of rule-breaking gatherings. If the inquiry finds MPs were “knowingly” misled, Mr Johnson will be expected to resign for breaching the ministerial code.

Despite the growing pressure, Johnson loyalist Conor Burns – the minister who said he had been “ambushed by cake” – said on Friday: “There’s no question of the prime minister going.”

The Northern Ireland minister told Sky News: “He has nothing to fear. He’s looking forward to this ending, he’s looking forward to drawing this to a conclusion, for it to be examined fully so we can move on.”

Mr Burns also claimed Partygate was “going to be the most looked at event, possibly, since the Second World War”.

Mr Johnson shared his frustration with ongoing questions over Partygate. “What I don’t want is for this thing to just go on and on and on,” he told Channel 4 News while in India. “I think there’s got to be a way of drawing a line under it.”

Former minister Steve Baker became the latest minister to call on Mr Johnson to resign – telling the Commons on Thursday that “the gig’s up”.

Mr Baker’s call to resign was “very significant”, said Lord Barwell, former chief of staff to Theresa May. The Tory peer told LBC: “If I was still working in No 10, I would be pretty worried about that intervention.”

William Wragg – who has demanded a confidence vote – also urged his fellow Tory MPs to act on Mr Johnson’s leadership of the party. “We must stop delegating and delaying our political judgement,” he pleaded.

Mr Harper said: “Colleagues have got to decide they want to go into the election, with Boris Johnson leading the Conservative Party. If they do, they can just sit on their hands.”

Though 54 Tory MPs must submit letters of no confidence to trigger a leadership vote, a majority of the party’s MPs – around 180 – must vote against Mr Johnson to remove him from office.

Mr Burns hit out at Tory MPs calling for Mr Johnson’s resignation, saying they “never really supported” him.

The minister told the Today programme: “If the prime minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim – that is a fact.”

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