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PM on the brink as party rebels threaten war if he doesn't quit after wave of resignations

Boris Johnson faces backbench mutiny as he attempts to cling onto power after a nightmare double resignation by Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid yesterday.

Rebel Tory MPs last night warned the PM that they will change the party’s rules so he can be ousted as leader if he tries to carry on as leader.

They told the Prime Minister he faces the threat of another confidence vote next week, which would trigger a leadership contest if he loses. Asked what will happen if Mr Johnson refuses to quit, a rebel ringleader last night replied: ‘War.’

The PM is engaged in a desperate damage limitation battle in the wake of the bombshells from the now-former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who walked out within minutes of each other berating his lack of ‘integrity’ and competence.

It came after the release of a damaging letter by Lord McDonald of Salford which gave critics of Mr Johnson further ammunition over his appointment of alleged groper Chris Pincher to the whips office.

In his resignation letter, Mr Sunak warned that ‘we cannot continue like this’ and he was ready to sacrifice his political career.

‘The public rightly expect Government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,’ he wrote.

Meanwhile, Mr Javid questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest. 

The exits – which aides of both men claim were not coordinated – came despite Mr Johnson frantically trying to head off the crisis with a grovelling apology over his appointment of shamed MP Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, trade minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak are the bookies’ favourites if there is a leadership contest.

Despite this, Mr Johnson has shown little sign of acquiescing – as he appointed Nadhim Zahawi as Chancellor and Steve Barclay as Health Secretary ahead of another attempt to reset his premiership – Michelle Donelan was promoted to Education Secretary to replace Zahawi.

The PM was even quoted by an aide to say ‘F*** that’ to the idea of resigning, according to the Times. 

Sir Graham Brady, who is chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, was under pressure last night to tell the PM the game is up. The committee, which sets rules for the parliamentary party, is expected to announce today that it will hold elections for executive positions next Wednesday.

Boris Johnson is teetering on the brink as Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both dramatically quit his Cabinet within minutes of each other yesterday

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson appoints Nadhim Zahawi as the chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cabinet Room of No10 Downing Street after a chaotic night of resignations from the Government

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson appoints Nadhim Zahawi as the chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cabinet Room of No10 Downing Street after a chaotic night of resignations from the Government

Zahawi is pictured smiling at 10 Downing Street amid his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer

Zahawi is pictured smiling at 10 Downing Street amid his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer

Johnson (L) instructed his Chief of Staff Steve Barclay (R) to take over as Health Secretary after Sajid Javid departed

Johnson (L) instructed his Chief of Staff Steve Barclay (R) to take over as Health Secretary after Sajid Javid departed

Supporters and opponents of Mr Johnson will battle for the places so they can influence whether he faces another confidence vote, which could happen almost immediately. The PM last month survived a ballot by a margin of 211 to 148 (Pictured) and has a 12-month grace period before another challenge

Supporters and opponents of Mr Johnson will battle for the places so they can influence whether he faces another confidence vote, which could happen almost immediately. The PM last month survived a ballot by a margin of 211 to 148 (Pictured) and has a 12-month grace period before another challenge

Mr Sunak's resignation letter

Mr Javid's resignation letter

In his resignation letter (left), Mr Sunak told the PM that ‘we cannot continue like this’. Meanwhile, Mr Javid (right) publicly questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest

YouGov polls suggest 69 per cent of Brits want Boris to resign but few have confidence that he will heed the calls

YouGov polls suggest 69 per cent of Brits want Boris to resign but few have confidence that he will heed the calls

The double resignation came moments after the airing of a pool clip in which Boris gave a grovelling apology for appointing Chris Pincher

The double resignation came moments after the airing of a pool clip in which Boris gave a grovelling apology for appointing Chris Pincher

REMOANER HESELTINE GLOATS THAT BORIS’S EXIT WILL BE THE END OF BREXIT 

Lord Heseltine gloated last night that if Boris Johnson goes, Brexit will too.

He claimed the departure from the EU had been a disaster, and the Tories must change course to stay in government.

Asked if the party would oust a proven vote-winner, he told the BBC: ‘It has an instinct for survival. They know that under Boris they will not win the next election.’ The Remainer, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet but lost the whip in 2019 after backing the Lib Dems in European Parliament elections, said: ‘The cancer at the heart of this dilemma is Brexit. If Boris goes, Brexit goes.

Lord Heseltine, whose Henley seat was taken by Mr Johnson in 2001, said he liked the PM, but added: ‘That is often the case with real rogues – they can be entertaining… providing you can live with the lack of integrity.’

Supporters and opponents of Mr Johnson will battle for the places so they can influence whether he faces another confidence vote, which could happen almost immediately. The PM last month survived a ballot by a margin of 211 to 148 and has a 12-month grace period before another challenge.

But his critics are plotting to change the rules to enable another vote before the summer recess.

Tory rebels yesterday revealed they were submitting letters of no confidence to Sir Graham so there can be an immediate confidence vote – if the rules are changed.

If the 12-month grace period is removed, a leadership challenge will take place if 54 of the party’s 358 MPs put in letters. Mr Johnson’s critics would then need more than half of the party’s MPs to back removing him in a subsequent confidence vote.

If the leader fails to get a majority, he or she resigns and cannot stand in the contest.

One disgruntled Tory MP told the Mirror: ‘If he had any decency then he’d resign, but he won’t.

‘The Cabinet know it’s over but they keep propping him up.’

According to a survey by the Conservative Home website, Ben Wallace is currently the most popular potential leadership contender among the Tory membership.

Asked who they wanted to lead the party, 15.8 per cent said the Defence Secretary, just ahead of Penny Mordaunt on 15.5 per cent and Liz Truss on 13.9 per cent.

Tom Tugendhat, who is chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, was backed by 7 per cent of members, with new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi on 6.6 per cent and former leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt on 6.4 per cent.

It comes after it emerged that seven in ten Brits believe Boris Johnson should resign his post, according to a new YouGov poll of thousands of UK adults, while a majority of people who voted Conservative in 2019 also want him gone.

Lord Frost joined the rebels

Lord Frost (left) said Mr Sunak and Mr Javid had done the ‘right thing’

The Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning was a glum harbinger of the chaos which unfolded yesterday afternoon

The Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning was a glum harbinger of the chaos which unfolded yesterday afternoon

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said that there was no 'constitutional' reason for Boris to resign

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said that there was no ‘constitutional’ reason for Boris to resign

Culture Secretary and vocal Boris advocate Nadine Dorries said she was '100 per cent' behind Boris

Culture Secretary and vocal Boris advocate Nadine Dorries said she was ‘100 per cent’ behind Boris

Andrew Mitchell, a former chief whip, compared Boris Johnson with Rasputin.

‘It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in the freezing river and still he lives,’ the Conservative MP told BBC Newsnight.

He was adamant that it was ‘over’ for the Prime Minister.

‘This is an abnormal Prime Minister – brilliantly charismatic, very funny, very amusing, big, big character, but I’m afraid he has neither the character nor the temperament to be our prime minister.’

Leadership contenders need two nominations from colleagues to put themselves forward.

A series of votes would be held among the party’s MPs to determine which two candidates end up on the ballot paper.

In the last contest in 2019, 66 per cent of members chose Mr Johnson over Mr Hunt.

Sir Roger Gale, one of the Prime Minister’s most vocal critics who had opposed altering the rules on confidence votes, last night said he had changed his mind.

The Conservative MP for North Thanet told Sky News: ‘I have said for several days now that I believe that we should not change the rules in the middle of the game and that the 1922 committee rules should remain as they are.

‘But I’m afraid… this… changes that picture completely.’

He added: ‘If the Prime Minister still refuses to go without the confidence of the backbench of his party, without the confidence, clearly, of significant members of his Cabinet, if that is not enough to persuade him that the time has come for him to step aside, then the 1922 committee, the backbench, is going to have to do it for him.’

Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, called for a summer leadership contest.

‘There isn’t a better time to get rid of Boris Johnson and get a new prime minister,’ he told BBC News. ‘We have got summer recess in two weeks’ time, that is when we should be having our leadership election.’

Mr Johnson’s immediate survival chances were boosted by Dominic Raab, Liz Truss, Priti Patel, Ben Wallace and Therese Coffey all declaring they will not be resigning. 

Notably Michael Gove, who notoriously stabbed Mr Johnson in the back to end his leadership hopes in 2016, does not appear to be jumping ship.

Environment Secretary George Eustice has yet to break his silence. 

However, some in the more junior ranks have been voting with their feet. Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami announced his exit live on TV, while former loyalist Jonathan Gullis, Saqib Bhatti, Nicola Richards and Virginia Crosbie stepped down from PPS roles.

Theo Clarke and Andrew Murrison also stepped down as the trade envoys to Kenya and Morocco respectively. 

Lord Frost, previously Mr Johnson’s key Brexit envoy, said Mr Sunak and Mr Javid had done the ‘right thing’ and the premier could not change. 

Even Cabinet ministers staying in place sounded a gloomy tone privately, with one telling MailOnline yesterday that some of their closest colleagues had ‘run out of sympathy with the PM’. 

Nadhim Zahawi leaves 10 Downing Street after being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer

Nadhim Zahawi leaves 10 Downing Street after being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer

Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street yesterday as he struggles to find a way to survive in office - beginning a reshuffle to replace two of his most senior Cabinet members

Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street yesterday as he struggles to find a way to survive in office – beginning a reshuffle to replace two of his most senior Cabinet members

Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen warned Boris Johnson that the backbench 1922 Committee will ‘deal’ with his leadership.

Mr Bridgen, a critic of the Prime Minister, said: ‘The portcullis is the emblem of our Parliament, it is the last defence of our democracy.

‘The 1922 committee will deal with this turbulent prime minister, it’s what it was created for.’

The Prime Minister is facing manoeuvring from Conservative MPs, who are hoping to change the rules of the 1922 Committee to re-run a confidence vote against him.

Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg was sent out to bat in broadcast studios, insisting there is no ‘constitutional’ reason for the PM to go. 

Asked whether he would really survive a fresh Tory confidence vote, Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News: ‘He might very well win another.’ 

Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Johnson’s mood after the resignations was ‘business as usual’ and he still hoped he would beat Robert Walpole’s record of 21 years in No10.

Despite this, Mr Sunak and Mr Javid appear to have had heeded calls from Tory rebel MPs – who had been demanding action from Cabinet ministers over the latest sleaze scandal battering Mr Johnson’s Government.

Mr Javid told the PM: ‘It is with enormous regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this Government.

‘I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government.’

Nadhim Zahawi

Michelle Donelan

Universities minister Michelle Donelan (right) seen going into Downing Street before taking the post as Education Secretary, replacing Nadhim Zahawi (left) who was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer

Theo Clarke (left) and Andrew Murrison also stepped down as the trade envoys to Kenya and Morocco respectively

Theo Clarke (left) and Andrew Murrison also stepped down as the trade envoys to Kenya and Morocco respectively

Saqib Bhatti

Virginia Crosbie

Some in the more junior ranks have been voting with their feet. Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami announced his exit live on TV, while former loyalist Jonathan Gullis, Saqib Bhatti (left), Nicola Richards and Virginia Crosbie (right) stepped down from PPS roles

Nicola Richards

Tory MP Nicola Richards's resignation letter

Tory MP Nicola Richards quit as a PPS saying she did not ‘recognise’ the Conservative Party under Mr Johnson 

WHO HAS QUIT BORIS’S GOVERNMENT AND WHO STILL REMAINS? 

QUIT

Rishi Sunak

Sajid Javid

Nicola Richards

Jonathan Gullis

Saqib Bhatti

Virginia Crosbie

Andrew Murrison

Theo Clarke

Alex Chalk

Bim Afolami

 

NOT QUITTING

Dominic Raab

Ben Wallace

Priti Patel

Liz Truss

Brandon Lewis

Michael Gove

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Therese Coffey

Nadine Dorries

Nadhim Zahawi

Michelle Donelan

 

ON WATCH

George Eustice

Penny Mordaunt 

It was the second time Mr Javid has resigned from a Johnson government, having quit as Chancellor on principle in 2020 when he was told he could not choose his own special advisers.

Boris broke his silence after the body blows by responding to the rebellious pair’s resignation letters with his own.

Boris Johnson told Sajid Javid he was ‘sorry’ to receive his resignation letter as health secretary and suggested his Government would ‘continue to deliver’ plans for the NHS.

In a brief letter, the Prime Minister wrote: ‘Dear Saj, Thank you for your letter this evening tendering your resignation. I was very sorry to receive it.

‘You have served this Government, and the people of the United Kingdom, with distinction.’

Boris Johnson responded to Rishi Sunak’s departure as chancellor, saying he was ‘sorry’ to have received Mr Sunak’s resignation letter and praising his ‘outstanding service’.

In a letter, the Prime Minister wrote: ‘Dear Rishi, I was sorry to receive your letter resigning from the Government.

‘You have provided outstanding service to the country through the most challenging period for our economy in peacetime history’.

He noted the furlough scheme, Mr Sunak’s work on post-pandemic economic recovery and to repair public finances, as well as tax cuts.

The double resignation sparked feverish speculation that other members of the Cabinet might soon follow suit in quitting Mr Johnson’s Government.

Conservative MP Saqib Bhatti quit his role as a PPS, following the example of former boss Mr Javid, stating ‘recent events have undermined trust and standards in public life’.

Posting his resignation on Twitter, he wrote: ‘The Conservative and Union Party has always been the party of integrity and honour.

‘I feel that standards in public life are of the utmost importance, and the events of the past few months have undermined the public trust in all of us.

‘I have been grappling with these issues for some time and my conscience will not allow me to continue to support this administration.

‘It is for that reason I must tender my resignation.’

In a particularly stinging blow for the PM, one of his most loyal supporters Mr Gullis said he was resigning ‘with a heavy heart’.

He wrote: ‘I have been a member of the Conservative Party my entire adult life, a party I believe represents opportunity for all. I feel for too long we have been more focused on dealing with our reputational damage rather than delivering for the people of this country and spreading opportunity for all, which is why I came into politics.

The Cabinet rebellion came after the release of a damaging letter by Lord McDonald of Salford which gave critics of Mr Johnson further ammunition over his appointment of alleged groper Chris Pincher to the whips office

The Cabinet rebellion came after the release of a damaging letter by Lord McDonald of Salford which gave critics of Mr Johnson further ammunition over his appointment of alleged groper Chris Pincher to the whips office

Seven in 10 Britons – and even 54% of Conservative voters – say Boris Johnson SHOULD resign following bombshell departure of Javid and Sunak, poll reveals 

Seven in ten Brits believe Boris Johnson should resign his post, according to a new YouGov poll of thousands of UK adults, while a majority of people who voted Conservative in 2019 also want him gone.

The Prime Minister’s tenure has been called into question after two members of his Cabinet – Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – handed in their resignations yesterday in a scathing indictment of Johnson’s leadership.

YouGov’s poll found 69 per cent of people believe the PM should step down – up 11 per cent from June 9 – a sentiment shared by more than half (54 per cent) of respondents who voted Conservative in 2019’s general election.

Just 34 per cent of Conservative voters wanted Johnson out on June 9 just days after he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote, suggesting that yesterday’s Cabinet resignations represent the final straw for many Tory supporters.

Only 18 per cent of Brits overall believe Johnson should remain in charge, but despite the widespread calls for his resignation, just one in five YouGov poll respondents actually believe the Prime Minister will heed them. 

The Prime Minister was already fighting an uphill struggle to remain in No 10 as his handling of the row over scandal-hit former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher became the latest issue to raise questions over his judgment.

YouGov’s Associate Director of Political and Social Research Patrick English said of the poll results: ‘Tonight’s figures make for dire reading for Boris Johnson. 

‘With over half of the very people who put him into office in 2019 now wanting him out, he is losing the battle for support not just with the general public, but his own party’s voters.’ 

‘It is for this reason I can no longer to serve as part of your government.’

Who’s staying and who’s gone from the Government?

Conservative MP Nicola Richards quit her role as PPS to the Department for Transport, stating she cannot serve ‘under the current circumstances’.

The West Bromwich East MP tweeted : ‘At a time where my constituents are worried about the cost of living and I am doing my best to support them, I cannot bring myself to serve as a PPS under the current circumstances, where the focus is skewed by poor judgement that I don’t wish to be associated with.

‘I am loyal to my constituents and will always put them first.

‘I am also loyal to the Conservative Party, of which is currently unrecognisable to me. I believe something must change.’

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk also confirmed his resignation as Solicitor General late on Tuesday evening.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Mr Chalk said it was ‘with great sadness’ he was quitting the post but added he could not ‘defend the indefensible’.

He wrote: ‘To be in government is to accept the duty to argue for difficult or even unpopular policy positions where that serves the broader national interest. But it cannot extend to defending the indefensible.

‘The cumulative effect of the Owen Paterson debacle, Partygate and now the handling of the former Deputy Chief Whip’s resignation, is that public confidence in the ability of Number 10 to uphold the standards of candour expected of a British Government has irretrievably broken down. I regret that I share that judgement.

‘This comes at a moment of intense challenge for our country, when trust in government can rarely have been more important. I’m afraid the time has therefore come for fresh leadership.’

Tory MP for Hastings and Rye Sally-Ann Hart, who previously backed Mr Johnson the confidence vote last month, said she is no longer able to support him.

She tweeted: ‘Considering the further revelations that have come to light, and given that the integrity of Parliament must be upheld, on behalf of my constituents of Hastings and Rye I am no longer able to support Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.’

Just moments before the drama unfolded, the PM acknowledged he should have sacked Mr Pincher when he was told about the claims against him when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019, but instead Mr Johnson went on to appoint him to other government roles.

Asked if that was an error, the PM said: ‘I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.

‘I apologise to everybody who has been badly affected by it. I want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this Government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power.’

Mr Rees-Mogg said that ‘losing chancellors is something that happens’.

He told Sky News that to suggest such actions should lead to the resignation of the Prime Minister was an ’18th-century’ view of Cabinet Government.

He said that it is the Prime Minister who appoints Cabinet ministers and is ‘not someone who is brought down by Cabinet ministers’.

Mr Johnson took a conciliatory tone in his letter responding to Mr Sunak yesterday.

‘I was sorry to receive your letter resigning from the Government,’ he wrote.

‘You have provided outstanding service to the country through the most challenging period for our economy in peacetime history’.

He noted the furlough scheme, Mr Sunak’s work on post-pandemic economic recovery and to repair public finances, as well as tax cuts.

‘I have enormously valued your advice and deep commitment to public service and will miss working with you in government,’ he concluded.

Sir Keir Starmer seized on Mr Johnson’s misery and called for a snap election.

‘He is unfit to be Prime Minister. He is not fit to govern the country,’ he said.

‘That is dawning on many people across the Conservative party, but they have to reflect on that, that they have backed him for months and months and months.

‘Resigning today means nothing against their complicity for all those months when they should have seen him for what he was, they knew who he was.

‘We need a change of government.’

Asked if he would support an election if one were called in the next few weeks, Sir Keir said: ‘Yes. We need a fresh start for Britain. We need a change of government.’

The Labour leader also suggested a change of government would help to address the ‘big issues’ like the cost-of-living crisis and could provide ‘political stability’.

The Labour leader said those remain in the Cabinet would be ‘nodding dogs’ if they did not quit. Sir Keir spoke to journalists shortly before news of Rishi Sunak’s resignation broke. Asked if Mr Johnson was a ‘pathological liar,’ he said: ‘Yes, he’s a liar.

‘What we’re seeing this week is a repeat of what we’ve seen so many times, which is Government ministers going out onto the airwaves, giving answers to questions, and no sooner have they finished the media round that the answers they’ve given aren’t accurate because the Prime Minister and Number 10 haven’t been straight with them.

‘That is not this week’s story, although it is this week’s story, it’s every week’s story. It’s on repeat, which is why you see the Conservative Party tearing itself apart today. Should his Cabinet members make sure he leaves office, yes they should. It’s their responsibility, in the national interest, to remove him from office.

‘They know what he’s like, he’s said that he’s psychologically incapable of changing, and therefore they have to do what’s in the national interest and remove him.’

Can Boris the ‘greased piglet’ wriggle free AGAIN? The PM’s options after Sunak and Javid quit – from daring MPs to oust him to calling a snap general election 

Boris Johnson was dealt a huge double blow following the resignations of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday.

But does this mean Mr Johnson’s time as Prime Minister is coming to a close? Might he quit himself? Or can he ride through another storm and remain in Number 10?

Here, MailOnline looks at what the consequences could be:

What’s happened?

Mr Sunak and Mr Javid both resigned as Cabinet ministers within minutes of each other yesterday.

The outgoing Chancellor told the PM that ‘we cannot continue like this’, adding: ‘The public rightly expect Government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.’

Meanwhile, Mr Javid publicly questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest.

Why did they quit?

The duo left Government amid a fresh Tory sleaze scandal battering Mr Johnson’s administration.

Chris Pincher resigned as Tory deputy chief whip last week amid claims he drunkenly groped two men.

And – just hours before Mr Sunak and Mr Javid’s departure – Number 10 admitted the PM had been informed of a past complaint about the ‘inappropriate’ behaviour of Mr Pincher before he appointed him to the whips’ office in February.

The admission was the latest in a series of changing positions from Downing Street over what Mr Johnson had known of Mr Pincher’s past conduct.

In his resignation letter, Mr Sunak also spoke of ‘fundamental’ differences between himself and the PM on economic policy.

Boris Johnson's chances of staying in Number 10 have been dealt a huge blow - but is it fatal?

Boris Johnson’s chances of staying in Number 10 have been dealt a huge blow – but is it fatal?

Will the PM now also have to quit?

Not necessarily.

In fact, the PM’s chances of avoiding his own resignation were boosted by the fact that no other Cabinet ministers immediately followed Mr Sunak and Mr Javid out the door.

Many declared their support for Mr Johnson although some – such as Environment Secretary George Eustice have been noticeably quiet.

With the PM having already seen off huge pressure to quit over the Partygate scandal, it seems unlikely that he will fall on his sword at this moment.

He has even shrugged off the resignation of a Chancellor before when Mr Javid quit the top Treasury role in February 2020.

Ex-PM David Cameron famously referred to Mr Johnson as a ‘greased piglet’ due to his ability to survive various scrapes.

So many would back him to escape once again. 

Could the PM call a general election?

Another possibility, albeit slim, could be Mr Johnson calling a snap general election in a bid to seek a fresh mandate from the country.

If that were to happen, the calculation in No10 would be that – although increasing numbers of Tory MPs want him gone – voters themselves might still back him to remain in office.

It would be a huge gamble, with Labour maintaining a significant poll lead for the last months. 

How else will Tory rebels try to force the PM out?

There is already a plot among Tory rebel MPs to change the rules of the Conservative Party in order to force a new vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson.

This is despite the PM having won a contest on his leadership last month that granted him 12 months’ immunity from another challenge under current rules.

Mr Johnson chairing Cabinet yesterday morning, before the resignations were announced

Mr Johnson chairing Cabinet yesterday morning, before the resignations were announced

The rebel plot will see them try to secure key posts on the 1922 Committee, the powerful Tory body in charge of leadership contests, in a battle with PM loyalists.

If they win a majority on the Committee’s 18-strong executive, they will be able to force through the rule change they want.

But, with elections to the 1922 executive not due to be held until next week and MPs going their summer break later this month, Mr Johnson could yet be safe from another contest until September.

What about Labour?

Sir Keir Starmer could attempt to force the PM out of Downing Street by tabling a no confidence motion over Mr Johnson’s Government in the House of Commons.

If he were to do so, the Labour leader would be calculating that Tory MPs are so fed up with Mr Johnson that they would side with the Opposition and vote to bring down their own Government.

There is a recent precedent for Sir Keir to follow, although Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, survived a confidence vote in January 2019 after it had been called for by then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Ben Wallace, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tipped to join former high-fliers Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt in any battle to succeed PM  

Boris Johnson insists the idea of him resigning is ‘crazy’ – but the possibility must look fairly realistic to potential successors.

Future candidates come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM’s handling of the Covid pandemic.

Here are some of the potential runners and riders: 

Liz Truss 

  • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Suffolk MP
  • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
  • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
  • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

The 46-year-old  Foreign Secretary has been regularly linked with a tilt at No10. The former international trade secretary was promoted last year to succeed Dominic Raab.

The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

But while she has been hawkish over the war in Ukraine, the conflict has hit her prospects after several stumbles. 

Prior to the February 24 invasion she visited Russia for talks with her Kremlin counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which she overtly channeled the style of Margaret Thatcher on a similar trip 35 years previously.

Her use of Instagram to share images of her looking tough and commanding has also drawn comment. 

Liz Truss in Moscow this year

Margaret Thatcher in 1987

The Foreign Secretary posed for pictures in Red Square in a fur coat and hat, 35 years after the former Tory premier did the same on a visit to the then Soviet Union.

But she received a bit of a mauling from Putin’s attack dog, who said their talks had been like ‘the deaf talking to the blind’.

She was also criticised early in the conflict for urging Britons to go to fight for Russia even if they have no military experience, advice later contradicted by senior military figures.

But the Remain voter from 2016 has become a born-again Brexiteer in the years since, something that will aid her in any vote. 

As Foreign Secretary she has taken on responsibility for negotiating changes to the Brexit agreement with the EU to sort out the political impasse in Northern Ireland. A deadlock-breaking agreement is unlikely but unilateral action by the UK is being mooted, which could help boost her credentials.  

Jeremy Hunt

  • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Suffolk MP
  • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
  • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
  • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

Jeremy Hunt lost heavily to Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election that followed the resignation of Theresa May. 

But he is showing no signs of letting the mauling at the hands of Tory members dissuade him three years later.

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks. 

And he has consistently refused to rule out running to replace Boris Johnson if he quits. 

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

Last month he refused to say whether Boris Johnson was ‘honest’ as he warned the Prime Minister has a ‘big mountain to climb’ in winning back Tory voters.

The South West Surrey MP cast doubt on the PM’s ability to once again prove a Tory vote winner as he insisted it would be a ‘mistake’ to dismiss the party’s local election losses as ‘mid-term blues’. 

But the former Cabinet minister insisted now was not the time for renewed efforts to topple Mr Johnson and said he ‘hoped’ the PM would lead the Tories into the next general election.

The comments were seen as a warning shot to the PM – and a clear message to Tory MPs – that he is waiting in the wings should Mr Johnson continue to stumble. 

Like Truss he is a former Remain voter who has become a convert to the Brexit cause. He also has his own fair share of gaffs in his locker, including describing his Chinese wife Lucia – with whom he has two children – as ‘Japanese’ in an interview.   

Ben Wallace 

  • 52-year-old former British Army officer is Defence Secretary
  • He is currently the most popular minister with the Tory grassroots 
  • Sandhurst-educated father of three has led efforts to arm Ukraine to fight off the Russian invasion
  • Was targeted by Russian pranksters who managed to speak to him on a video call in March

Currently the most popular minister with Tory grassroots, according to the Conservative Home website. 

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War. 

The 52-year-old former Scots Guards officer has been at the forefront of efforts to supply Kyiv with weapons and expertise to fight off the Russian invasion, which has boosted his support base and name recognition.

The Sandhurst-educated father of three has overcome a Russian attempt to humiliate him after a Kremlin-backed prankster managed to get through to him on a video call, parts of which were later broadcast on YouTube.

He was asked if he supported Ukraine’s ‘nuclear aims’ by a man claiming to be the PM of Ukraine.

He has also avoided being implicated in the worst failures of the UK’s retreat from Afghanistan last summer, with blame being generally laid at the door of the Foreign Office.

The Defence Secretary's low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War.

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War.

Last week he confirmed Britain is to arm Ukraine with precision-guided M270 rockets that have a range of up to 50 miles to help match Russia’s artillery arsenal.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded heavier weapons to counter Russia’s artillery. Germany and the US have also pledged long-range weapon systems.

He tweeted yesterday: ‘In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before. 

‘On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence.’

Rishi Sunak 

  • Former Chancellor was top-rated minister at the end of 2021 after Covid largesse
  • But profile has gone into freefall after a series of controversies in 2022
  • Wife revealed to be a non-dom taxpayer living in Downing Street
  • Sunak himself also faced questions over US Green Card possession 

Mr Sunak might have burnished his credentials with Tory rebels by finally walking out of the Cabinet.  

But it is unlikely he will ever regain the heady highs of the end of 2021, when he was the undisputed candidate to succeed Mr Johnson. 

His largesse with taxpayers’ cash during the Covid crisis – furlough payments and other measures – and slick social media campaigns made him widely popular within the party and with the wider electorate.

It was a rapid rise to the top for a minister who only became Chancellor weeks before lockdown kicked in early in 2020. 

But the popularity of ‘Brand Rishi’ took a tumble in 2022 amid a series of controversies and rows with No10.

In the spring it was revealed his multi-millionaire heiress wife Akshata Murty was revealed to be living in Downing Street while having non-dom tax status.

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

Sunak told the Sun: 'I'm an elected politician. So I know what I signed up for. It's different when people are trying to attack you by coming at your family and particularly your wife. It's unpleasant, especially when she hasn't done anything wrong'

Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

She has legally avoided paying a huge UK tax bill by paying £30,000 a year to register as based in India.

He insisted she hasn’t ‘done anything wrong’ while accusing his critics of ‘smearing her to get at him’. She later agreed to pay full UK tax.

Later it emerged Mr Sunak, a father of two and former international banker, himself held a US Green Card for a year into his term leading the Treasury. 

While the status would not save him any money on his tax bill, it carries a responsibility to make the United States ‘your permanent home’.

There were also a series of rows with No 10 after recovery spending and his involvement with Partygate: he received a £50 fine for attending Boris Johnson’s surprise – and rule-breaking – birthday party in No10 in June 2020, even though he claimed he was just passing through on his way to a meeting.

His supporters blamed No10 for embroiling him in the controversy, souring an already acidic relationship within Downing Street.  

Penny Mordaunt

  • Trade minister and Royal Navy reservist who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019
  • Ignored other ministers tweeting support for PM to instead write about D-Day
  • She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary
  • Appeared on reality TV show in 2014 wearing just a swimsuit 

Penny Mordaunt has already emerged as possibly one of the least subtle potential candidates to run.

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP. 

‘Today I will be attending Portsmouth’s commemoration service to remember the efforts and sacrifice of #DDay,’ she wrote.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister. 

Supporters have pushed her credentials as the potential unity candidate any leadership race appears to lack – she is a Brexit voter who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019. 

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

Ms Mordaunt hs already been on resignation watch once this year. In January she spoke out against a proposed £1.2 billion underwater electricity cable project backed by a Russian oligarch and major Tory donor.

She opposed plans by Aquind, co-owned by Alexander Temerko, to construct the interconnector under the Channel between Normandy and Portsmouth.

Temerko, who previously ran a firm producing weapons for Russia’s military, and Aquind have given more than £1 million to the Tories and the oligarch has regularly featured in photos at fundraisers with Prime Ministers and their Cabinets.

Government sources said Mordaunt was ready to quit if the cable was approved. The project was later rejected.

Tom Tugendhat: Iraq and Afghanistan veteran turned China and foreign affairs hawk

  • An Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • The son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.
  • Father of two said in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

Another Tory MP with military experience. Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is a confirmed Boris critic who has taken aim at the government over its attitude to China and the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

However, some are concerned about his lack of political experience and voting for a second posh PM in a row. He is the son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.

Mr Tugendhat, who is married with two children, has previously made clear that he would fancy a tilt at the top job, saying in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the 'best chance for a fresh start'.

Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

He was a member of the Territorial Army when the Iraq War broke out in 2003 and he was mobilised as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines. He went into Iraq as part of Operation TELIC – the initial invasion.

After the war he returned to a job in the City of London but then went back to Iraq to help with the economic reconstruction of the country.

In 2006 the Foreign Office then asked Mr Tugendhat to go to Afghanistan to help grow its national security council. The Tory MP can speak Arabic, Dari and French.

The Tory MP was applauded in the House of Commons during a debate on the UK’s exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 as he detailed his experience in the country.

He told a silent chamber: ‘Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage—through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made.

‘I have been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane. I have watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us. This week has torn open some of those wounds, has left them raw and left us all hurting.’

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