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Tory rebels plot move on Johnson after losing by-elections


British prime minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie arrive for an event last night in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

British prime minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie arrive for an event last night in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

British prime minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie arrive for an event last night in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Boris Johnson was last night facing a fresh threat to his leadership, as Conservative rebels launched a push to change party rules in order to hold a second vote of no confidence.

MPs who oppose the British prime minister are seeking election to top posts on the 1922 Committee, which dictates rules on confidence votes.

Currently, Mr Johnson is protected from another leadership vote for a year, after winning a poll earlier this month, but rebels want that rule scrapped.

Three Tory MPs who want Mr Johnson replaced told The Daily Telegraph they would seek election to the committee, promising a rule change.

One said: “We could be heading into a world where the situation is beyond a joke. At that point you need officers who are willing to say ‘enough’s enough’.”

The rebels’ plans emerged after the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat, with the Liberal Democrats claiming Tiverton and Honiton and Labour regaining the seat of Wakefield.

Tiverton and Honiton was the biggest by-election defeat in history, in terms of the size of majority overturned.

No government has suffered two by-election losses in a single day since 1991.

Moments after the results were announced, Oliver Dowden, the Tory chairman, announced he was quitting – the first resignation from the cabinet this year.

The prime minister said he would listen to voters, but vowed to carry on as leader as he responded to developments from Rwanda, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit.

Mr Johnson said: “No doubt people will continue to beat me up and say this or that and to attack me.

“That’s fine, that’s quite right, that is the job of politicians. In the end voters, journalists, they have no one else to make their complaints to. I have to take that.

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“But I also have to get on with the job of delivering for the people of this country, and that’s what I was elected to do.”

He also promised to deliver new tax cuts, but gave no further details.

There were fresh calls for Mr Johnson’s resignation yesterday, with two former Tory leaders, Michael Howard and William Hague, urging him to walk away.

Mr Hague said that the party faced electoral “disaster” and called on cabinet ministers to consider their positions.

Mr Howard said: “I think the party and even more importantly the country would now be better off under new leadership.” However, a close ally of Mr Johnson said: “You will have drag to him out by his fingernails.”

Following Mr Dowden’s resignation, the prime minister talked to a string of senior Cabinet ministers and was reassured he retained their support. They included Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, Steve Barclay, his chief of staff, Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Liz Truss, the foreign secretary.

Ms Patel and Mr Raab stepped in to do broadcast interviews yesterday morning which were meant to have been conducted by Mr Dowden. No 10 officials are understood to be confident no more cabinet ministers are on the brink of resigning.

But even so, a long-planned reshuffle is understood to have been delayed. It is now not expected until after Parliament breaks for summer recess on July 21.

An ally told The Telegraph: “He needs time to work through if he needs any changes and if so why, and if so who.

"Realistically we’re into the recess before we sort that.”

However, the threat from backbenchers remains. Earlier this month Mr Johnson won the confidence vote, despite 41pc of Tory MPs voting for his removal. Under 1922 Committee rules another vote cannot be held for a year.

But Conservative MPs who remain committed to his removal are now running for the 18 most senior roles on the 1922 Committee, the elections for which will be held in the coming weeks. Six positions are for 1922 officers and the other 12 are for spots on the executive.

The rules can be changed at any time by a simple majority, meaning 10 out of the 18 senior 1922 figures would need to approve any alteration. Theresa May resigned in 2019 when told the 1922 Committee had held a vote on removing her year-long protection from a second vote.

Mr Bridgen told The Telegraph: “I will stand on a pro-rules change ticket. Boris Johnson knows very well that it was the threat of rules change that persuaded Theresa May to stand down.

“He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword, as Boris knows well.” 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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