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Senior Tory MP Says It's "When, Not If" Boris Johnson Will Face A Confidence Vote

4 min read

Tobias Ellwood has said the Prime Minister is causing "long term damage" to the Conservative party's "brand" and has urged him to resign.

The senior Conservative MP has said his party is "deeply troubled" by the Prime Minister's behaviour and warned that the damage to public trust was proving "difficult to repair".

Johnson endured another bruising day on Thursday when MPs backed a Commons probe into whether he misled Parliament over claims that lockdown rules were followed in Downing Street at "all times".

Ministers were forced into a humiliating u-turn after fears of a significant Tory rebellion led to them drop an amendment to Labour's motion, which would have forced another vote on the probe once the Metropolitan police had concluded their inquiries.

Johnson has repeatedly insisted he has "nothing to hide" from MPs, and reiterated his claims that he did not willingly mislead Parliament over whether parties took place in Downing Street during lockdown, despite receiving a fixed penalty notice for his attendance at one gathering in June 2020.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ellwood, who chairs the powerful Commons Defence Committee, said Johnson's resignation would offer an "easier solution" to the problem.

"I have to say all MPs are deeply troubled by this problem of what to do given where he has brought the party over the last couple of years. But the challenges just won't go away. I predicted a steady trickle of letters, of resignations, and that is now happening," he said.

"I think the chief whip was wise to contain yesterday's damage by pulling yesterday's amendment... the support to defend a Labour motion was simply not there. But I fear it is now when not if a confidence motion takes place."

Ellwood added that the "absence of discipline, of focus, of leadership" had led to a "breach of trust" among the public.

"It is causing long term damage to the party's brand and that is proving difficult to repair despite good people now coming into Number 10," he said.

Ellwood also dismissed suggestions that the Prime Minister should remain in post because of the Ukraine war, saying it was a "fig leaf".

"The capability that is offered to any Prime Minister... will remain the same," he added.

"We do need to have crisis management, and that is why I have encouraged the Prime Minister to offer his own timetable as to when the party can decide whether they support him or not, draw some form of conclusion here and determine whether he is the person to take us into the next election or the party chooses to go down another route."

Several Conservative MPs used Thursday's debate to criticise Johnson's leadership, with former Brexit minister Steve Baker saying he should "know the gig is up".

"I've been tempted to forgive, but I have to say now the possibility of that really has gone," he told MPs.

"I'm sorry but for not obeying the letter and the spirit [of the law], the Prime Minister must be long gone."

But Northern Ireland Secretary Conor Burns said he did not believe the Prime Minister had "lied" and claimed the matter would be the "most looked at event possibly since the Second World War".

"I do not believe the Prime Minister has lied and I believe when the full facts are seen, when the context comes out that it will be clear that the Prime Minister at every time that he came to Parliament was faithful and genuine and true," he said.

"What I believe is the Prime Minister told the House what he believed to be the truth in good faith at each stage."

Burns, a long time ally of the Prime Minister said there would now be "multiple opportunities" for Johnson's claims to be "tested".

"We have the Met investigation ongoing, we have committed that when that is finished Sue Gray will complete her report, update her report, the Prime Minister will come back to Parliament. We now have the privileges investigation."

He added: "This is going to be the most looked at event, possibly, since the Second World War."


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