“Pork Pie” Plot Tory MPs Accused Of “Self-Indulgence” And “Student Politics”
The group of 2019-intake Tory MPs said to have instigated a plot to try and remove Boris Johnson have been accused of disloyalty and “self-indulgence”.
A senior government source said an apparent plot by 2019-intake MPs to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister in response to allegations of a number of parties held in Downing Street during lockdown was an “intellectually and morally bankrupt” idea.
Earlier this week a group of around twenty Conservative backbenchers, first elected two years ago, met in Parliament to discuss Johnson’s future.
They were believed to be planning to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister as soon as this afternoon, and push the total close to the magic number 54, the threshold at which a vote to remove Johnson would be triggered.
But their plot was swiftly overtaken by the shock decision of Tory MP Christian Wakeford to defect to Labour in protest at Johnson’s leadership this morning.
He announced ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions he was crossing the floor to join the opposition, prompting fevered speculation that more of his colleagues may join him on the opposition benches, though none have done so far.
The government source criticised the plotters for being too inexperienced and for being too ambitious. Since Wakeford's defection, there has been no confirmation that enough letters have made their way to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee.
The rebellion was dismissed by a government source as “like candy floss – it seems huge but actually underneath it there’s very little substance”.
Those involved were accused of “enjoying the game” too much, with an insider saying “there’s a whiff of student politics about all of this”.
The source noted that if around twenty 2019 MPs had rallied together against Johnson, then more than eighty who were elected that year had not taken part, and that they were “fucking deluded” if they believed they were better off without Johnson.
After beginning the day in a parlous position, Wakeford’s resignation has rallied many Tories behind Johnson, with insiders believing he is no closer to facing a no confidence vote than he was this morning.
One MP, Jonathan Gullis, even suggested some backbenchers had begun withdrawing their letters as a result of the day’s action.
However the Prime Minister is certainly not clear of danger, with several MPs repeating that they are waiting for the inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray to report back on the allegations before deciding to stick with him as leader.
But there is already a backlash against the so-called “Pork Pie” plotters by the more established wing of the party, with a Cabinet minister describing them as "sickening" to The Times yesterday. "They were only elected because of him," they said. “Most of them are a load of fucking nobodies. It's nuts.”
Downing Street is also urging MPs to wait for Gray’s report, which is now expected to be published next week.
“People want sober government and reasoned decisions and that is what we should wait for,” the government source said.
“Changes will happen as a result of [Gray’s report], the PM has said that, but now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Downing Street responded to news of the plot by inviting other members of the 2019 intake to see Johnson last night to shore up his ailing leadership, and his spokesperson confirmed he is meeting more MPs this afternoon after senior backbencher David Davis called on him to resign.
On whether they can convince colleagues to stick with him as leader, a source said: “Reasonable arguments land with reasonable people.”
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