A defiant Boris Johnson is clinging on to power, insisting he won’t quit even if his enemies in the Tory party force a vote of confidence in his leadership
The prime minister is determined to fight back, boosted by an apparent split among the Tory plotters on when to launch their coup and on who should succeed him.
Mr Johnson’s allies also believe the defection of the Bury south MP Christian Wakeford may have rallied some wavering Conservative backbenchers behind the embattled PM.
The PM’s supporters also claim he has bought himself some time, with some of his would-be assassins being persuaded to grant him a reprieve until the Whitehall “partygate” report is published.
The report, by senior civil servant Sue Gray, is now not expected until next week and the PM’s allies will now exert massive pressure on rebel MPs to wait until then before they strike.
Boris Johnson begins fightback
And as the PM battles to survive, some MPs estimate the number of letters to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady demanding a confidence vote is now about 30, still well short of the 54 required to trigger a vote.
The prime minister himself, meanwhile who was in a despondent mood in a TV interview on Tuesday, is now said to be ready to come out fighting against his enemies and is reported to have told allies: “Bring it on.”
But after attempting to buy off rebels with “red meat” policies such as ditching COVID Plan B rules, attacking the BBC and sending gunboats to the English channel, Mr Johnson now faces a showdown on tax.
The rebels are now demanding a U-turn on the bitterly-disputed £12 billion-a-year tax rise, through increased national insurance contributions to fund health and social care, in return for their support.
‘In the name of God, go!’
Amid the febrile mood, the senior Tory MP David Davis, who sensationally told the PM at Prime Minister’s Questions: “In the name of God, go!” has also turned up the heat on Mr Johnson.
The former Brexit Secretary has now told The Daily Telegraph the Conservative Party faces “dying a death by 1,000 cuts” and suffering a year of agony” unless it changes leader.
Mr Davis’s bombshell attack on Mr Johnson in the Commons came at the end of a PMQs that began with the Labour MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford, dramatically crossing the floor of the Commons and defecting to Labour.
As voters in his constituency wake up with a Labour MP just two years after Mr Wakeford was elected as a Conservative, Labour will attempt to hammer home its advantage in the town.
Labour tries to exploit Tory chaos
The Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will deliver a speech in Bury attacking the government on the cost of living and unveiling Labour’s plans to tackle it.
“We have a choice,” she will say. “We can continue with the same approach.
“Or we can do things differently, with an approach based on bringing people together in a national endeavour, and on the understanding that Britain’s real wealth is found, not in the bank accounts of friends of the Conservative Party but in the effort and talent of tens of millions of working people.
“Under Keir Starmer’s leadership Labour has changed, but so too have the Conservatives. The Conservatives once called themselves the party of business. But that’s a distant memory.”
For the prime minister, the next few days will be crucial, with his team desperately hoping there will be no more devastating revelations this weekend about parties in Downing Street.