‘What else could you want in a leader?’ Jacob Rees-Mogg defends Boris Johnson

Prime minister rallies Tory MPs at meeting in parliament

<p>Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA)</p>

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has launched a spirited defence of Boris Johnson's leadership in the wake of Sue Gray's No 10 party report.

The prime minister gathered a meeting of Tory MPs on Monday night in parliament – in a bid to head off a leadership challenge by rebels.

Speaking to reporters outside the meeting Mr Rees Mogg, the Commons leader, said the PM retained the confidence of his party.

“I’ve never been in a room where everyone’s agreed with me but I thought support for the prime minister was very strong," he said.

“I don’t think there were that many wavering backbenchers, I think he’s managed to maintain the support of the party pretty much throughout.”

The senior Tory also warned off potential leadership contenders, stating: “The thing about throwing your hat in the ring is often that you find it’s thrown straight back at you.”

Asked about the prime minister's leadership Mr Rees-Mogg described the PM as a "very strong and effective leader"

"The prime minister has a very strong idea of what he wants to do and where he wants to to go. He is a proper leader, I don’t know what else you could want in a leader," he added.

Rebels laid low or stayed away from the Monday night meeting, with most accounts from inside suggesting the PM received a positive reception.

Another Tory MP said the prime minister's performance in the room was “quite barnstorming”, and “full of energy”.

Mr Johnson is said to have banged the table in emphasis during the discussion in what was described as “a very strong performance”.

Meanwhile Peterborough MP Paul Bristow acknowledged that the report's release been a "difficult day" but said there was support for Boris Johnson.

Mr Bristow said he left the meeting "absolutely pumped" in his support for the PM and added that nobody in the meeting had called for the PM to quit.

Mr Rees-Mogg gave a similar account. When asked whether anyone had called for the PM to quit, he said: “Nobody’s said that. He’s got huge support and he’s got a mandate from the British people."

Polls suggest the PM is now a drag on his party's fortunes; Labour has opened up a 10-point lead over the government.

Sue Gray’s report into rule-breaking at Downing Street was released on Monday afternoon. It found that many of the parties held at Downing Street should not have taken place within the rules, and revealed that the Metropolitan Police were investigating around a dozen events.

The prime minister was also accused of misleading parliament over the issue.

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