Monday, June 27, 2022

Boris Johnson is ‘unsaved’: In a stunned Tory party planning to find a new leader

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Even loyalists desert the leader. Jeremy Hunt is seen as a ‘broken flush’ and Penny Mordaunt has also ‘woken up’ as MPs look to the next generation and ‘real unity candidate’ Nadhim Zahawi for redemption

They rightly expected the Prime Minister to win, but none believed that 148 – 41 percent – of their own MPs would voice no confidence in his leadership.

When the result of the Conservative leadership vote on Boris Johnson became known, cabinet ministers scattered throughout Parliament were “shocked”, witnesses say.

Ministers, queuing in the famous central lobby of the Palace of Westminster for an immediate response on television, grew concerned about forthcoming television appearances.

Other ministers had gathered in parliamentary offices to watch the results come in, but they did not breathe easier.

“When it happened there was a shock and the general sense was how do we get out of this?” says a Tory source, who said it “went off like a stun grenade in Westminster”.

That shock continues to reverberate. Since the outcome, the Tory civil war has cooled off as both rebels and loyalists ponder what comes next.

The lack of ministerial resignations or major interventions has pleased some in Downing Street and around Mr Johnson. Some rebels even appeared in radio interviews to call for a ceasefire after the outcome.

But behind closed doors, it’s clear that the Prime Minister is hanging by a thread at No. 10 as ministers and loyalists begin to plan their successor.

“If something massive doesn’t happen right away, everyone tries to convince themselves that everything is okay, which usually isn’t,” says the Tory source.

Hours before the vote, shaky scenes erupted, signaling resentment within the Tory party.

A “hyped up” rebel was described as “crazy” when he yelled at a loyalist colleague, “You’re done, you know you’re done”.

“I’ve just seen this person on TV saying we need to get behind the Prime Minister,” the source says.

“But that person is going to come back in six months and go through it all again.”

Mr Johnson cannot now face a leadership challenge for another year under current Conservative Party rules, but many loyalists and rebels alike feel another moment of reckoning will come sooner.

The chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, who oversees the Tory leadership process, has signaled he is ready to change the rules to allow for an earlier challenge.

I assumes that if the rebels managed to turn around 30 more MPs, so a clear majority of the Parliament party was against Mr Johnson, it is likely that the 1922 Executive Committee would discuss a rule change.

However, some sources believe there could be other avenues for a rule change, such as another spate of no-confidence letters linked to ministerial resignations.

An alternative route to Mr Johnson’s ouster is also now being actively explored by rebel Tory MPs, exploiting a little-used party rule allowing a new vote of confidence from grassroots activists.

The vote would be non-binding but highly symbolic and could give ministers and cabinet ministers the spark to resign.

1922 committee elections are to be held before the July summer recess and Sir Graham is expected to stand again for the presidency.

Determining who gets into the executive branch “will be very important, however, in determining who the decision-makers will be at 1922 in that regard,” says one MP.

A minister supporting the prime minister said I that it is now a question of “when not if” that he is pushed out.

Mr Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has said his old ally has until the autumn to turn things around, a view shared by some MPs.

A backbench MP who voiced no confidence in Mr Johnson on Monday said: “My view is that the Prime Minister has some breathing room and is safe until the autumn.

“The key question is whether or not the 1922 Committee will change the rules.”

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