Sunday, June 26, 2022

Tory is rebelling in a new plot to oust Boris Johnson with obscure rules

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The rebels believe the Conservative Party constitution could mobilize ordinary Tories against the Prime Minister should the by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton be lost

Johnson scraped his lawmakers’ no-confidence vote on Monday, but 148 of them — 41 percent of the total — refused to support him.

Boris Johnson faces a new threat to his premiership as rebel Tory MPs plan to mobilize the party’s grassroots to oust him from No. 10 this summer. I have learned.

Now the backbenchers are preparing to respond to a double defeat in this month’s by-elections in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield by getting leaders of local Conservative associations to trigger a vote of confidence of their own in the Prime Minister.

Under a rarely used rule of the Tory Constitution, only 65 local party leaders are required to call an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the National Conservative Convention (NCC), an 800-strong body representing the grassroots.

The obscure rule was first spotted by Brexiteers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, who planned to oust Theresa May in 2019 for failing to pass Brexit legislation from a hung Parliament.

Once a meeting is called, a motion of no confidence would be brought against Johnson. While the result is not binding, rebellious MPs believe its symbolic power would be significant, and could provide ministers and even cabinet ministers with a reason to stage a wave of resignations.

May survived a vote of confidence from her MPs in December 2018 and could not be challenged again for another year under Backbench 1922 Committee rules.

But grassroots activists successfully triggered an emergency NCC meeting for June 2019. Her petition at the time stated: “We no longer think Ms May is the right person to remain Prime Minister” and planned to use their meeting to petition to that effect.

In the end, the meeting never materialized because May bowed to pressure to resign a few weeks earlier. Along with the prospect of a new challenge from MPs, the threat of ignominy from such a scathing verdict from the ‘voluntary’ wing of the Tory party was enough to compel them to act.

The National Convention is made up of conservative association chairmen from over 600 constituencies. It also has officials from “areas and regions” and 42 representatives from Young Conservatives and the Conservative Women’s Organization

“We only need less than half the constituency leaders of the 148 to write to trigger another vote of confidence,” said one of the rebel MPs. “This is the next real boost.”

One backbencher said: “Just before I voted Monday, my constituency leader said to me, ‘I hope you vote him out.’ This was someone who organized the Brexit vote in my area in 2016. And there are more like him.”

The grassroots push is part of a two-pronged strategy by rebel lawmakers to increase pressure on Johnson.

The Commons Privileges Committee investigation into Partygate is set to gather evidence and then report in the fall.

If the Prime Minister is found to have deliberately misled Parliament about the lockdown bill in No 10, the Commons as a whole could pass a motion of no confidence and Tory MPs would quickly change their rules to allow for a second MP vote of confidence.

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