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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Boris Johnson To Face A Confidence Vote On His Leadership Tonight

6 min read

Conservative MPs will vote whether to remove Boris Johnson as leader after at least 54 sent letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee.

Brady announced on Monday morning that the 54 letter threshold had been reached and that a vote will be held this evening between 6-8pm.

A result will be announced "shortly thereafter". If at least half of Conservative MPs – 180 – vote against Johnson, he will be removed from 10 Downing Street and a leadership contest will be triggered.

Downing Street appeared confident that Johnson would command the support of MPs. A spokesperson said the vote this evening was a chance for the government to "draw a line" under weeks of speculation about the prime minister's position.

"Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities," they said.

"The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force".

Brady notified Johnson on Sunday that the threshold had been passed and the pair agreed a timetable for holding the vote tonight, he told reporters outside Westminster.

29 Conservative MPs have publicly called on Johnson to resign amid anger over the partygate scandal and the prime minister's leadership.

The latest to do so was Jesse Norman, the former treasury minister, who in a blistering letter that he published this morning said Johnson's claim that he had been vindicated by Sue Gay's report into lockdown parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall was "grotesque".

Johnson could address a meeting off Conservative MPs later today, before the vote takes places, in an attempt to shore up his support.

A number of Cabinet ministers have declared their support for Johnson following Brady's announcement.

Rishi Sunak confirmed that he would vote in favour of Johnson later today. The chancellor tweeted: "From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs. I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs."

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is regarded as a frontrunner to succeed Johnson, tweeted that the prime minister had her "100% backing" and that she would "strongly encourage colleagues to support him".

"He has delivered on covid recovery and supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. He has apologised for mistakes made. We must now focus on economic growth," she said.

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary Michael Gove also said he would be voting in favour of Johnson. "The PM got the big decisions right on Brexit and Covid," he tweeted.

"We need to focus now on defending Ukraine, driving levelling-up and generating growth. We need to move past this moment and unite behind Boris to meet these challenges."

Reacting to the news of a confidence vote on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed he would vote for Johnson, and said that while he had not wanted to see a vote happen, believed it could be a positive for the prime minister. "I see it as an opportunity for the party to put behind us all these frenzied speculation and get behind a programme of delivery," he said. 

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis tweeted: "He got the key big decisions right on covid, Brexit delivery & supporting Ukraine. He has apologised for mistakes made and we owe it to our constituents to focus on delivering to make lives better".

MPs who PoliticsHome spoke in recent days expected him to win the confidence vote, which would mean he could not face another one for 12 months.

An explosive briefing leaked to PoliticsHome on Sunday showed Conservative MPs who want Johnson gone warning colleagues that he is leading them to a "substantial" defeat at the next general election.

The single-page document warned the Tories would lose swathes of seats to Labour and the Liberal Democrats under Johnson's leadership and that the only removing him as prime minister would restore the party to a position where it could win in 2024.

A counter brieing sent to Conservative MPs this morning by backers of Johnson, and shared with PoliticsHome, argues that he has an "unmatched electoral record" and will "win again" in the next general election.

It insisted that a leadership contest in the event of Johnson losing today's vote would be "distracting, divisive and destructive" for the Tory party, and "extremely harmful" for the country.

The briefing continued: "Instead, by backing Boris Johnson, we can choose today to focus on growing the economy, cutting taxes, making our streets safer, and busting the NHS backlogs. There is no alternative leader, no alternative plan, and no alternative way forward – so we should reject chaos and division and back the PM."

Speaking on BBC News on Tuesday morning, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he expects the Prime Mininster will win tonight's confidence vote.

The Minister for Brexit Opportunities said that "even one vote is enough" for the party to move on should Johnson succeed in the private ballot.

"I hope every Conservative MP will vote for him," Rees-Mogg said.

"This is a democracy and if you win by one vote you have won," he added.


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