Some MPs fell into line behind the wounded Prime Minister today (pictured with US ambassador Jane Hartley this afternoon), less than 24 hours after attempting to kick him out of No10 in a row centered on Partygate.
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The rebellion against Boris Johnson showed signs of floundering today as some of those who voted to get rid of him last night pledged their loyalty. 

MPs fell into line behind the wounded Prime Minister today, less than 24 hours after attempting to kick him out of No10 in a row centered on Partygate.

A trio of the 148 Conservatives who signalled their displeasure at his leadership admitted today that he had won and vowed to support him. 

Giles Watling, Philip Davies and Nigel Mills all confirmed they voted no confidence in Mr Johnson, but now planned to support him in the Commons, with rules currently preventing another leadership challenge for 12 months.

However other anti-Boris MPs vowed to continue the fight, warning they could change the rules and mount another attack in a few months.

The party is on track for disaster in two by elections on June 23 with polls suggesting Labour could reclaim the Red Wall seat of Wakefield by a 20-point margin, while the Lib Dems are bullish about their prospects in the blue heartlands of Tiverton.

A close ally of Jeremy Hunt – who broke cover to call for Mr Johnson to quit yesterday – warned this morning that the insurrection is ‘not not over’. 

Another rebel, Tobias Ellwood, suggested the PM is safe for the time being, but predicted that would not be the situation for long. ‘I think we’re talking a matter of months, up to party conference,’ he said. 

It came as the PM tried to put the chaos of the past few months behind him by focusing on his legislative programme. 

He gathered the Cabinet today and told ministers to ‘get on with the job’ and prove they deserve the backing of voters today after buying himself time to breathe. 

An extension of the Thatcherite right-to-buy, a joint cost-of-living speech with Rishi Sunak, the first migrant Rwanda flights, a series of high-profile foreign jaunts and a reshuffle of his team are all on the cards in the coming weeks as Mr Johnson tries to get back on track. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the session that the NHS is like ‘Blockbuster in the age of Netflix’, and must be reformed. 

There were also fresh hints at tax cuts, although still not any detail or firm commitments – as Lord Frost renewed Tory demands for the burden to be eased.  

As the political chaos continues: 

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said he was ‘very happy’ that the PM had survived, describing him as an ‘important ally’;
  • Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney has warned that Mr Johnson must not take a harsher approach on Brexit in a bid to shore up his position; 
  • Tory backbencher Ben Bradley said it was ‘inevitable’ that some Cabinet ministers had vote against the PM. ‘I think when you look at the numbers that’s inevitable, in reality,’ he told Sky News;
  • Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has said he voted for Mr Johnson to keep his job after securing a review into funding for his local council; 
  • The Lib Dems are asking for an official confidence vote in the Commons, but have no chance of securing one as only the official Opposition party can secure one and Labour is not backing the move;  
  • Lord Hague has joined calls for Mr Johnson to resign for the good of the country and the party;
  • Critics say PM has until the Autumn to turn around the polls – but stay of execution could be shorter if Tiverton and Wakefield by-elections are a complete disaster for the Tories. 
Some MPs fell into line behind the wounded Prime Minister today (pictured with US ambassador Jane Hartley this afternoon), less than 24 hours after attempting to kick him out of No10 in a row centered on Partygate.

Some MPs fell into line behind the wounded Prime Minister today (pictured with US ambassador Jane Hartley this afternoon), less than 24 hours after attempting to kick him out of No10 in a row centered on Partygate.

Boris Johnson gathered his senior ministers urging them to push the 'massive agenda' of Levelling Up investment in the wake of the brutal confidence vote that saw more than 40 per cent of his MPs try to oust him

Boris Johnson gathered his senior ministers urging them to push the ‘massive agenda’ of Levelling Up investment in the wake of the brutal confidence vote that saw more than 40 per cent of his MPs try to oust him

The Cabinet assembled as Westminster digested the impact of the titanic Tory showdown last night

The Cabinet assembled as Westminster digested the impact of the titanic Tory showdown last night

There was traditional banging of tables after the PM thanked his team for supporting him during the confidence battle

There was traditional banging of tables after the PM thanked his team for supporting him during the confidence battle

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street with his dog Dilyn this morning as he vowed to get on with the job after winning a confidence vote last night

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, announces that Boris Johnson has survived an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader at 9pm last night

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, announces that Boris Johnson has survived an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader at 9pm last night

Tories ‘trailing by 20 points ahead of Wakefield by-election’ 

Boris Johnson is headed for a by-election catastrophe with a heavy loss in one of the Red Wall seats the Tories won just three years ago.

A new poll of voters in Wakefield suggests Labour has a lead of more than 20 points with just weeks to go before the vote on June 23.

The West Yorkshire seat was a prize scalp when taken by Imran Ahmad Khan in 2019 with majority of 3,358. It was the first time since 1931 that the Tories had won there.

But Mr Ahmed Khan is now in prison, having been jailed for a sex attack on a teenage boy. 

And the poll by Survation for the 38 Degrees website suggests that Boris Johnson’s national woes, coupled with the local disgrace, have seen the Conservatives’ new-found support hemorrhage away.

They put Labour on 56 per cent, with the Tories on 33 per cent, leading a trail of other parties with token vote shares.

It came as Lib Dem leader Ed Davey urged voters in a second vote on June 23 to ‘speak for Britain’ and overturn a huge Tory majority.

His party has high hopes of taking Tiverton and Honiton, the seat vacated by ‘tractor porn’ MP Neil Parish.    

The PM also urging them to push the government’s ‘massive agenda’ of Levelling Up and reforming public services in the wake of the brutal confidence vote that saw more than 40 per cent of his MPs try to oust him.

Mr Watling today admitted he voted against the PM, saying: ‘We lost on my side of the fence. And now the Prime Minister is there for another year and I will support him in government.’

MP for Shipley Mr Davies said that MPs should ‘accept the result’ of Monday night’s confidence vote after himself voting against Boris Johnson.

And Mr Mills has said he thinks that Tory MPs like himself who voted against the Prime Minister on Monday now need to accept the result and ‘get behind the Government’.      

Around the famous table in Downing Street, Mr Johnson thanked ministers for their ‘hard work’ in saving him from outright defeat yesterday. But he demanded they come up with way of ‘cutting costs’ in government and getting better value for the taxpayer.

‘We are able now to draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about,’ Mr Johnson said. 

Meanwhile, even loyalist MPs have admitted that senior ministers will have secretly voted against the premier. And the grassroots ConservativeHome website has suggested that the Cabinet should be stepping in to urge him to quit.     

Mr Johnson was up early walking his dog Dilyn this morning, sending ministers out to argue his case in broadcast studios.

He told ministers to talk up the ‘huge investment that we are making’ before adding: ‘But it’s not enough just to spend money. We have got to spend it wisely.

‘We as Conservative ministers, we have got to make sure at every stage that we are driving reform and driving value.

‘So what I’m going to ask you all to do in each of your departments is make sure that you’re thinking the whole time about cutting the costs of government, about cutting the costs that business has to face and of course cutting the costs that everybody else faces, families up and down the country.’

In an attempt to address criticism of his economic policies, Mr Johnson said the ‘fundamental Conservative instinct’ was to allow people to decide how to spend their money, urging Cabinet ministers to cut costs.

He said ‘delivering tax cuts’ would help deliver ‘considerable growth in employment and economic progress’.

Mr Johnson told ministers to ‘make sure that you’re thinking the whole time about cutting the costs of government, about cutting the costs that business has to face and of course cutting the costs that everybody else faces, families up and down the country’.

Reforms to regulations could help cut costs in areas such as energy, transport or housing, Mr Johnson said, telling ministers ‘there is ample scope for us to get out of people’s way and to do things better’.

Zelensky hails PM’s confidence vote win 

Volodymyr Zelensky today hailed Boris Johnson’s narrow escape from the Tory coup bid.

The Ukrainian president said he was ‘very happy’ that the PM had survived, describing him as an ‘important ally’.

The two leaders have struck up a ‘bromance’ during the war with Russia, speaking regularly on the phone.

Mr Johnson was among the first leaders to visit Kyiv after the conflict started, and the UK has been a major donor of weapons and funding. 

Speaking in an online FT event, Mr Zelensky said: ‘I’m glad we haven’t lost a very important ally, this is great news.’ 

He said: ‘Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to ask everybody to come forward with ways in which we cut costs, drive reform, and make sure that we understand that in the end it is people who have the best feel for how to spend their own money rather than the government or the state. And that is our fundamental, Conservative instinct.’

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, called for previously announced rises to National Insurance and corporation tax to be reversed.

‘It is not Conservative to be raising taxes, and it is undermining growth and prosperity,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.

‘We need to improve productivity and investment, and not weaken it.’

But asked about Lord Frost’s suggestion the Government should reverse tax increases, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ‘it’s always about getting the balance right’.

He said: ‘We recognise the overall tax burden is higher than it has been, but that is for pragmatic reasons because of the global challenges we’re facing due to the pandemic and the war in Europe.

‘Some of the changes that we have made are to ensure the Government and the public services are able to tackle some of these challenges. For example, it is because of things like the levy that our NHS is able to start making inroads into the Covid backlog.’  

On a day of high drama at Westminster yesterday, including two resignations from government and Jeremy Hunt openly calling for Mr Johnson to go, Tory MPs voted by 211 to 148 that they still had confidence in Mr Johnson.

Pound dips lower on fears of Tory chaos 

The pound has dipped amid uncertainty over Boris Johnson’s leadership and fears over the strength of the UK economy.

Sterling was lower against the US dollar and the euro as questions swirled around the PM’s position, having initially held on to gains after the confidence vote was announced late last night.

The pound fell as much as 0.7 per cent to 1.24 US dollars and half a cent to 1.17 euro at one stage this morning – a sharp drop from earlier gains of nearly 1 per cent.

London’s FTSE 100 Index was also lower, edging down six points at 7602.4 in morning trading.

There are fears in the City over the path ahead for Mr Johnson after 148 of his own MPs voted against him, declaring they had no faith in his ability to lead the party.

However, the numbers were far above what Downing Street had hoped – raising questions about whether he is holed below the water line.

The result was worse in percentage terms than that suffered by Theresa May in 2018, which led to her leaving office months later. It was also on a par with Michael Heseltine’s challenge against Mrs Thatcher, who resigned soon afterwards. 

Speaking ahead of the Cabinet meeting this morning, Deputy PM Dominic Raab insisted Mr Johnson had ‘renewed energy’ after his narrow escape in the confidence vote.

‘I think we draw a line in the sand after this vote, it was clearly and decisively won,’ he told LBC.

‘We move forward to deliver for the people of the country and that is the way we do the right thing by our constituents.’

Mr Raab added: ‘There’s a huge amount, when you look at our policy agenda that binds us together, that’s the way it is in the Conservative Party.

‘And I think the best forward – momentum – will be to focus on that, because that’s the stuff that the people in the country, from the towns to the shires and the suburbs and everywhere in between, want us focused on.’

Conservative ex-leader Lord Hague joined calls for Mr Johnson to go today, warning he had experienced a ‘greater level of rejection’ than any of his predecessors and should quit. 

Tory Philip Dunne – a close ally of Mr Hunt – confirmed for the first time that he had voted against Mr Johnson.

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee and Ludlow MP told BBC Radio Shropshire: ‘I took the view that it would be better to provide the opportunity for integrity, for a new vision for the party and a new degree of competence at the heart of government.

‘It’s not going to happen for now, but we’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. This is not over.’

Polls have indicated that the Tories are on track for a trouncing in the Wakefield by-election on June 23

Polls have indicated that the Tories are on track for a trouncing in the Wakefield by-election on June 23

He added: ‘He’s got some very difficult challenges ahead – the by-elections, he’s got this Privileges Committee investigation – we’ve got some very tricky conditions ahead through the economy, challenges with the Northern Irish protocol.

‘There are some very choppy waters ahead and they’d be difficult to navigate for anyone.’

Backbencher Andrew Bridgen said Mr Johnson should ‘now leave with honour’. 

Tory rebel Tobias Ellwood predicted the PM had been given ‘a stay of execution’ but warned: ‘If we don’t see genuine change reflected in the polls then the storm clouds will gather again.’

As ministers rallied round last night, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Mr Johnson had ‘won handsomely’ in the vote of Tory MPs and urged the party to get battle-ready for the next election.

‘We draw a line and we move on because we’ve got two years to demonstrate to the nation that we can deliver on the economy,’ Mr Zahawi told Sky News last night.

‘What do you think [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky will be thinking? He will be punching the air because he knows his great ally Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister [in the] morning.’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who are seen as likely candidates if there is a Conservative leadership contest, declared their loyalty to Mr Johnson. 

Mr Sunak tweeted: ‘The PM has won the confidence vote and now it’s time to move forward. Tomorrow we get back to work growing the economy and delivering better public services.’

Ms Truss said: ‘Pleased that colleagues have backed the Prime Minister. I support him 100 per cent. Now’s the time to get on with the job.’ Environment Secretary

George Eustice acknowledged it was disappointing a ‘significant minority of our own MPs’ do not have confidence in the PM.

But he told LBC radio: ‘What we really have to do is work on bringing those MPs back on board.’

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart admitted Mr Johnson ‘has lots to prove’ but said the result of last night’s vote was ‘pretty decisive’.

He told BBC News: ‘Actually it’s quite a good thing that we can’t take anything for granted and have to work with every single voter… Let’s get on with the job we’ve been elected to do.’

Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Now we must carry out what we were elected to deliver – levelling up, cutting crime, securing the benefits of Brexit and improving public services.

‘Let’s get on with delivery and focus on the people’s priorities.’

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said it is ‘time to get back to the job of governing’. She tweeted: ‘The person [Sir Keir] Starmer doesn’t want to face at an election is Boris Johnson who secured the biggest Conservative majority since 1987… with 14million votes. Time to get back to the job of governing.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Johnson has secured ‘a fresh mandate’ from the Conservative Party.

And former Brexit minister Lord Frost called on the PM to ‘bring down taxes straight away’ to save his premiership.

Boris Johnson’s allies last night begged the 148 rebel Tories to ‘back down’ after Monday’s bruising confidence vote – asking them to not gift the next election to Labour. 

Nadine Dorries and Michael Gove arrive for the Cabinet meeting in Downing Street this morning

Nadine Dorries and Michael Gove arrive for the Cabinet meeting in Downing Street this morning 

Liz Truss

Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Liz Truss (left) and Anne-Marie Trevelyan (right) were both at the Cabinet session in No10 this morning 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi - often tipped as a future leader - was also in Downing Street for Cabinet today

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi – often tipped as a future leader – was also in Downing Street for Cabinet today

One striking interview on BBC’s Newsnight had Tory MP Adam Holloway bizarrely claiming that the corporation’s flagship news programme has made Mr Johnson look like ‘Hannibal Lecter’ and saying that voters knew that Mr Johnson was not a ‘Jesuit priest’ when he was elected.

He then accused the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of Partygate stories of not amounting to anything despite the over 100 fixed penalty notices given out to staff over the scandal.

Mr Johnson himself insisted he had secured a ‘decisive’ victory despite 148 of his own MPs voting to oust him on Monday night, arguing the Government could now ‘move on’ and focus on what ‘really matters to people’.

He also poured cold water on the prospect of a snap election, saying he was ‘certainly not interested’ in the idea.

Allies of the Prime Minister last night said he is also considering measures to stamp his authority on Tory MPs after the latest round of bloodletting.

These include bringing forward a planned Cabinet reshuffle to put in place the team to take the Tories into the next election.

Serial rebels who refuse to accept the PM’s leadership may also face the withdrawal of the Tory whip, effectively ejecting them from the party and leaving them ineligible to stand for the Conservatives at the next election. It comes after 41 per cent of Mr Johnson’s MPs declared they had no confidence in his leadership in yesterday’s confidence vote.

However, the history of leaders surviving in the medium-term in the wake of confidence votes is not encouraging. 

Jubilant rebels insisted there is no way that Mr Johnson can now lead the party into the next general election. Another moment of extreme danger is coming down the tracks with by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton on June 23.  

Sir Keir said Mr Johnson was ‘utterly unfit for the great office he holds’ and accused Tory MPs of ignoring the British public.

He said: ‘The Conservative Government now believes that breaking the law is no impediment to making the law.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘I think this is a very good result for politics and for the country.

‘I think it’s a convincing result, a decisive result and what it means is that as a Government we can move on and focus on the stuff I think really matters to people.’

He added: ‘I’ve got a far bigger mandate from my own parliamentary colleagues, for instance, than I had in 2019.

‘I’m grateful to colleagues, I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me.

‘Of course I understand that what we need to do now is come together as a Government, as a party and that is exactly what we can now do.

‘What this gives us is the opportunity to put behind us all the stuff I know the media have quite properly wanted to focus on for a very long time, and to do our job – which is to focus on the stuff I think the public actually want us to be talking about.

‘Which is what we are doing to help the people of this country and all the things we’re doing to take this country forward.

‘So what this means tonight is that we can focus on exactly that.’

The PM also insisted he was ‘certainly not interested in snap elections’ as he dismissed speculation he might soon go to the country to seek a fresh mandate from voters. 

Mr Johnson addressed his mutinous troops this afternoon and told them successful 'fratricide' would gift Keir Starmer (pictured leaving Parliament this evening) and his party an election win

Mr Johnson addressed his mutinous troops this afternoon and told them successful ‘fratricide’ would gift Keir Starmer (pictured leaving Parliament this evening) and his party an election win

Jeremy Hunt

Former minister Jesse Norman accused the PM of 'grotesque' behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter to Conservative backbench chief Graham Brady

Former minister Jesse Norman (right) accused the PM of ‘grotesque’ behaviour over Partygate in an excoriating letter to Conservative backbench chief Graham Brady. Jeremy Hunt (left) – who lost the last leadership contest to Mr Johnson – tweeted saying that he will vote against the PM.

John Penrose, an MP who served as the premier's anti-corruption champion and husband of ex NHS Test and Trace chief Dido Harding, said he had 'no option' but to resign as Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code. 'I think it's over,' he said

John Penrose, an MP who served as the premier’s anti-corruption champion and husband of ex NHS Test and Trace chief Dido Harding, said he had ‘no option’ but to resign as Mr Johnson had broken the ministerial code. ‘I think it’s over,’ he said

What now for Boris? Two by-elections, ANOTHER Partygate probe, double-digit inflation, and nine days abroad while rebel MPs plot… the potential landmines for the PM after he scraped through Tory confidence vote 

Boris Johnson is trying to move on from the Tory confidence vote today despite four in 10 MPs calling for him to quit.

But the PM is far from out of danger, with a series of hazards to navigate against the backdrop of an increasingly mutinous parliamentary party.

There are fears that the Conservatives are on track for disaster in looming by-elections in the Red Wall seat of Wakefield and the traditional blue heartland of Tiverton.

That could trigger another bout of plotting, especially as Mr Johnson is due to go on a nine-day foreign tour around the same time, leaving events to unfold in Westminster.   

Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis shows no sign of abating with the economy stalling and inflation predicted to reach double digits by the end of the year.

Despite his efforts to shift the dial, Partygate is also set to return as the powerful Privileges Committee investigates whether he deliberately misled the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday) is trying to move on from the Tory confidence vote despite four in 10 MPs calling for him to quit

Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday) is trying to move on from the Tory confidence vote despite four in 10 MPs calling for him to quit

The Tories have rules for how the leader can be ousted and replaced - although rebels point out they can always be changed

The Tories have rules for how the leader can be ousted and replaced – although rebels point out they can always be changed 

Has the PM seen off the threat of a confidence vote?

Tory rules state that a leader who wins a confidence vote cannot face another one for a year.

As Mr Johnson was the victor by 211 to 148 last night, in theory he should be immune until at least next June.

However, Theresa May also saw off a confidence vote in 2018, by a bigger margin, as she wrestled with Brexit.

That did not prevent her being forced to resign six months later, as when it became clear she would lose the 1922 executive merely threatened to change the rules to allow another vote. 

Tory rebels are already talking up the prospect of doing the same thing to Mr Johnson should his situation deteriorate further.

So what could spark another crisis?

The most immediate landmines in the premier’s path are the by-elections on June 23. 

In Wakefield, where the previous Tory MP Ahmad Khan was convicted of sexual assault, polls suggest Labour have a 20-point lead.

A thumping defeat in one of the Red Wall constituencies that delivered Mr Johnson’s historic 2019 landslide would be bad enough by itself.

But fears are also mounting that Tiverton & Honiton, in the Devon Tory heartlands, could also be lost. 

Neil Parish was forced to quit as the local MP after admitting watching porn in the Commons chamber. And the Lib Dems have been pouring resources into the area as part of their attack on the so-called ‘Blue Wall’.

Losing both could fuel rising panic that Mr Johnson’s ‘big tent’ encompassing the Red Wall and traditional heartlands might collapse at the next general election, and sending the Tories spiralling out of power.

The PM will be on the scene to front that up, right?

No. Mr Johnson is due to be out of the country on back-to-back visits when the by-elections take place, and is not expected to return until a week later.

This has caused some consternation at Westminster as although in theory the PM remains in charge while abroad it is notoriously a time when plotting can happen in their absence. 

Would there be another confidence vote if the by-elections are lost?

The backbench 1922 Committee reflects the will of MPs – but it is also there to protect the interests of the party.

The executive would be deeply reluctant to cause a situation where an endless stream of confidence votes can be held. That would make the job of a PM practically impossible and reinforce the public perception of disunity in the ranks.

Unless it is overwhelmingly clear that Mr Johnson would lose it is unlikely that the 1922 would facilitate another ballot happening barely a fortnight after the last.

So the premier has time for things to improve?

Barring bombshell resignations from Cabinet, the rebellion might well be entering a slower-burn phase.

But that does not mean the prognosis for Mr Johnson has necessarily improved a great deal.

The Bank of England expects the cost-of-living crisis to peak at the end of the year, with inflation reaching double-digits and the economy grinding to a halt.

The political heat is likely to be turned up as Britons feel the squeeze.

At least Partygate is in the rear view mirror though?

Well… not quite. The police and Sue Gray have completed their investigations, but Mr Johnson does still face an inquiry by the cross-party Privileges Committee.

That is due to report on whether he deliberately misled Parliament in the Autumn. Although the committee does have an in-built Tory majority there is still a risk that it will end up being critical.

That could end up being a flashpoint for a another coup attempt.  

Can Mr Johnson do anything to get back on track? 

The PM seems well aware that he has limited time to get the show back on the road.

He has ordered Cabinet to accelerate public service reforms and come up with plans to save money. A Thatcherite Right-to-Buy extension is due to be unveiled soon, and Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak could jointly unveil more cost-of-living support.

The premier has also again hinted at more tax cuts – which would be music to the ears of many traditional Tory MPs alarmed that the burden is rising to record levels.

A positive shift in national polls and the passage of time from Partygate could also help restore some of his standing. 

And there are continuing rumblings about a Cabinet reshuffle, although Mr Johnson might not have enough political leverage to make major changes.   

But the Tories’ Autumn conference is likely to be a critical moment, when the party takes stock again and decides whether it wants Mr Johnson to lead them into the next general election – or they want to try someone else.   

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

Tory MPs have been licking their lips at the thought of entering No10 as Prime Minister for months as Boris Johnson’s backing within the party collapsed as a result of Partygate and other scandals.

Possible candidates to succeed him 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.

Boris Johnson is the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll

Boris Johnson is the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll

Here we look at the potential runners and riders in the event: 

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.

Today he tweeted: ‘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 

  • 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 

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris 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’ has taken 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.  

Today he tweeted: ‘From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.

‘I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs.’

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.’

Nadhim Zahawi: Minister who came to the UK as a child refugee and made a fortune 

  • Kurdish Iraqi arrived in the Uk as a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s regime 
  • One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he set up polling company YouGov
  • He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million. 

Mr Zahawi is seen by some as an outside choice to replace the PM. He has a strong personal back story that culminated in him becoming the first Kurdish Iraqi MP.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering. 

One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he went on to be named ‘entrepreneur of the year’ by Ernst & Young and set up successful polling company YouGov. 

He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King's College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

The father-of-three was elected MP in 2010 – the first Kurdish Iraqi to be elected to Parliament.

The Brexit-supporting minister is trusted by Number 10 and is a regular feature on the morning media round.

Despite initially backing Dominic Raab for Conservative party leader in 2019, he has been loyal to Mr Johnson ever since.

He was previously children’s minister from January 2018 to July 2019, during which time he attended the controversial Presidents Club Ball.

He was said to have been given a dressing down by the chief whip after complaints of sexism and harassment at the all-male gathering for the business elite.

During the MPs expenses scandal, he was forced to apologise for claiming taxpayers’ money to heat his stables on his Warwickshire estate.

The inside story of Boris Johnson’s longest day: The Sunday phone call he’d dreaded, a poker face at Palace pageant, late-night crisis meeting in No 10 flat… and Theresa May voting in a ballgown. How the Prime Minister survived a major scare… for now 

By Jason Groves Political Editor for the Daily Mail

The call that Boris Johnson has been dreading for months finally came on Sunday afternoon. As the Prime Minister prepared to attend the Jubilee Pageant on The Mall, the Downing Street switchboard told him Sir Graham Brady was on the line.

Sir Graham, head of the ‘men in suits’ of the Tories’ 1922 Committee, got straight to the point. For all the talk of a ‘Jubilee truce’, the number of letters from mutinous MPs calling for a vote of no-confidence in the PM had passed 54 – the level needed to trigger a formal vote.

What is more, several other MPs had sent post-dated letters that would become active as soon as the four-day Jubilee celebrations were over. A contest was inevitable. The only question was, how quickly did the PM want to act? Mr Johnson did not hesitate, telling Sir Graham: ‘Let’s get this over with and move on.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Parliament today

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Parliament today

After that, there was just time to summon a meeting of his inner circle for that evening, before heading off to the pageant, where he and his wife Carrie took their places behind the Duchess of Cambridge to watch the gloriously British display.

If he was concerned about the potentially career-ending vote he did not let it show. He could not afford to – not only were the world’s cameras in attendance, but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was seated just a few places along.

On the PM’s return to No 10, his allies gathered in his Downing Street flat to dust off a plan that has been in preparation since January, when the Partygate row was at its height. In the room were Mr Johnson’s chief of staff Steve Barclay, chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris, long-time ally Nigel Adams, communications chief Guto Harri and Ross Kempsell, political director of the Conservative Research Department. Also in attendance was polling guru Sir Lynton Crosby, who has no formal role in government, but whose advice the PM has trusted for years.

‘It was calm,’ one source said. ‘We’ve had a plan for a long time – it was just a matter of going over that, checking it, tweaking it and putting it in motion.

‘It was also pretty clear the other lot didn’t have a plan. They stumbled into this without any idea of what would come next.’

The meeting also discussed how the PM could stamp his authority on the party again after what looked certain to be a bruising, divisive experience.

Plans for a summer reshuffle could be fast-tracked to take place in the coming days. Mr Johnson was also advised to withdraw the whip from the ‘serially disloyal’.

Carrie Johnson and Boris Johnson during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in front of Buckingham Palace yesterday

Carrie Johnson and Boris Johnson during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in front of Buckingham Palace yesterday

‘The PM’s weakness is he’s too nice to people,’ one source said. ‘We need to start getting tough with some of these people and send a message that we’re not going to put up with it any more.’ The PM then worked on a personal letter to Tory MPs, which was sent to aides for approval at 10.30pm.

News of the impending contest was kept extremely tight – to the extent that even Health Secretary Sajid Javid was not told before he was sent out to defend the Government on a morning broadcast round. But the surprises were also still coming for No 10.

At 7.36am, the PM’s old friend Jesse Norman plunged the knife in, releasing a scathing letter saying the Government ‘lacks a sense of mission’. Mr Norman said neither the Tories nor the country could afford to ‘squander the next two years adrift and distracted by endless debate about you and your leadership’.

One insider acknowledged that Mr Norman, an Eton contemporary of Mr Johnson who backed him for the leadership, was ‘not on anyone’s list’ of likely rebels.

A couple of minutes after 8am, Sir Graham broke cover to tell the world that ‘the threshold has been reached’, triggering a formal vote of confidence later that evening. A few minutes later, a one-page summary of the case for the PM’s defence dropped into Tory MPs’ inboxes. At 9am, government whips were summoned to a meeting to war-game the day and identify the waverers who might respond positively to a call from Mr Johnson.

Boris Johnson speaking on the phone with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from his office in 10 Downing Stree

Boris Johnson speaking on the phone with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from his office in 10 Downing Stree

The PM also spent an hour personalising his letters to MPs, with a handwritten note on each one – a use of time that raised eyebrows among some supporters.

No 10’s confidence had previously been buoyed by the fact that there was no obvious challenger. As one old hand put it: ‘You can’t have a challenge without a challenger.’ That changed shortly before 11am when Jeremy Hunt took to social media to savage the PM. The former foreign secretary, who was defeated by Mr Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest, has been ‘on manoeuvres’ at Westminster for months.

He did not mince his words, saying: ‘Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.’

Mr Hunt is widely seen as one of the leading agitators undermining the PM and the Government. The response from Mr Johnson’s allies was immediate and brutal.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: ‘Your pandemic preparation during six years as health secretary was found wanting and inadequate. Your duplicity right now in destabilising the party and country to serve your own personal ambition, more so.’ Her no-nonsense response underlined how difficult it could be to put the Tory Party together again after last night’s vote.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he was ‘heartbroken’ to see senior colleagues tearing lumps out of each other.

A No 10 insider acknowledged that Mrs Dorries’ forthright response ‘wasn’t in the comms playbook’, but said she ‘speaks from the heart’. Privately, loyalists were delighted to see Mr Hunt flushed out, believing some of the PM’s Brexiteer critics might pause for thought at the prospect of a Hunt takeover.

The business of government also had to continue. The PM pressed ahead with a planned phone call with Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky. He then hosted a meeting about Ukraine with Estonian PM Kaja Kallas.

In Portcullis House, the large office block in which coffee shops serve as Parliament’s public square, Tory whips stationed spies to report on who the plotters were meeting.

Yet there was some unease at the effectiveness of the No 10 operation. Some wavering MPs said they had not been called.

Mr Johnson (L) welcomes Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas during a bilateral meeting today

Mr Johnson (L) welcomes Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas during a bilateral meeting today

And while loyalist ministers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg were all over the airwaves making the case that a win by one vote is ‘enough’ for the PM to continue, Cabinet big-hitters Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Priti Patel confined their enthusiasm to tweets or brief statements. None of Mr Johnson’s predecessors as prime minister offered any words of support.

At 4pm, Mr Johnson came to make his own final appeal to MPs, setting out plans for the future ‘if I am still here’. Speaking at a packed meeting of the 1922 Committee, he pleaded with MPs to break free from the ‘media-driven focus’ on his leadership and concentrate on delivering for the public – and taking the fight to Labour.

‘This is not the moment for a leisurely and entirely unforced domestic political drama,’ he said. ‘This is the moment for us to lift our gaze from our navel.’ He highlighted his own track record of winning elections, dangled a hint of future tax cuts and gently pointed out that the rebels have ‘no alternative agenda’. To no one’s surprise he faced hostile questions on Party-gate from long-time malcontents Mark Harper and John Baron.

Then the voting began. Veteran MP Sir Peter Bottomley headed a queue of 20 as the ballot opened in Parliament’s committee room 10. Mr Hunt arrived ten minutes after polls opened, accompanied by supporters Philip Dunne and Dan Poulter. Theresa May looked dressed to celebrate, sweeping past reporters wearing a full-length ballgown and sequinned heels.

The PM continued to work the phones from his Commons office to try to twist a final few arms.

But eventually there was nothing more to do but wander up the corridor to cast his own vote. And wait for Sir Graham’s verdict.

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: If it goes on, this circular Tory firing squad can have only one result – Keir Starmer and his wrecking crew in No. 10:

For four heady days, the nation came together in exuberant celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Ceremony and pageant mixed with wondrous light shows, parades and boisterous street parties to create a cornucopia of festive enjoyment.

The cynics were banished. The sun shone. The whole country was in a buoyant mood, fuelled by a tidal wave of patriotic feeling — and no small amount of alcohol.

Yesterday came the hangover. And what a thumpingly painful one it was.

Many of us awoke to a morning of dank, sullen drizzle. London Underground was paralysed by a spiteful strike, presaging a summer of union-inflicted misery across Britain’s rail network.

Airports were in chaos, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. Russian artillery was pulverising the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Food and fuel inflation were raging unabated, biting hard into family budgets.

We know from long experience that voters will not elect a party at war with itself

We know from long experience that voters will not elect a party at war with itself

And what were Tory MPs doing to help voters weather this gathering storm of real-world problems? Absolutely nothing.

Instead, they hit the self-destruct button, embarking on an insane civil war.

Boris Johnson won last night’s no-confidence vote, but the result was undeniably disappointing. While 211 Tory MPs backed him, 148 — 41 per cent of the Parliamentary party — did not.

He now has the task of reasserting his authority, and this paper sincerely hopes loyal Conservatives will rally round him in that task.

As the PM said, the vote is over and ‘it’s now time to unite and deliver on the people’s priorities’.

How the voters’ hearts must have sunk. Just 30 months ago they elected Boris by a landslide to deliver Brexit and realise his vision of uniting and levelling up the country.

Within weeks he had delivered on the first part of the bargain, pushing through the withdrawal agreement Remainers had said was impossible.

On the second, he made an energetic start even before Covid struck, announcing new freeports and authorising thousands of Whitehall jobs to be moved northwards.

Boris has stood firm against Russian aggression when France and Germany preached appeasement. As a freedom-loving country, we should be proud of his resolve

Boris has stood firm against Russian aggression when France and Germany preached appeasement. As a freedom-loving country, we should be proud of his resolve

Yet now, as if in some bleak 21st-century Shakespearean tragedy, his own colleagues — vast numbers of whom would never have been elected without him — are conspiring to bring him down.

It is as undemocratic as it is treacherous.

Perhaps the most contemptible aspect of this self-indulgent putsch is that the plotters have no credible idea of what will come next.

For their party, it may well be a long spell in the political wilderness. We know from long experience that voters will not elect a party at war with itself.

This rebellion has been sparked by a disparate band of backbenchers, many of whom wouldn’t normally give each other the time of day, let alone agree on policy matters. They are united only by the desire to defenestrate their leader.

They are ministerial has-beens, attention seekers, terminal lightweights and, inevitably, a clique of embittered Remainers who will never forgive Boris for honouring the referendum result they tried so desperately to reverse.

Mr Hunt urged fellow MPs to vote for change. His idea of change is taking the party back to the future ¿ with all the ghastly rancour that would entail

Mr Hunt urged fellow MPs to vote for change. His idea of change is taking the party back to the future — with all the ghastly rancour that would entail

There are talented and energetic ministers, such as Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi. But they are untested at the highest level

There are talented and energetic ministers, such as Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi. But they are untested at the highest level

Chief among this latter group is Jeremy Hunt, who had a distinctly underwhelming record as Health Secretary and was later sacked by Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

Mr Hunt is out for revenge. He has the brass neck to say he didn’t really want to have a leadership debate. But as the Mail reveals today, he has been preparing for this moment for more than a year, hoping to seize the Tory crown for himself.

He is even said to be lining up a ghost Cabinet, including the likes of Andrew ‘Plebgate’ Mitchell and Tobias Ellwood, who last week called for the UK to rejoin the single market.

In his statement yesterday, Mr Hunt urged fellow MPs to vote for change. His idea of change is taking the party back to the future — with all the ghastly rancour that would entail.

He voted Remain in the referendum, supported a second public vote on the terms of our EU exit and was a cheerleader for Theresa May’s chimera of a withdrawal deal. Indeed, Tory critics call him ‘Theresa May in trousers — without the charisma’.

When will he and his fellow travellers realise the Brexit battle is over and that they lost?

They are like the Japanese soldiers fighting on in the jungle years after armistice has been declared.

Neither the party nor the country wants a return to that exhausting war of attrition.

And if Mr Hunt truly believes he could win an election by promising to turn back the clock, he is seriously delusional. As no-nonsense Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries told him yesterday: ‘You’ve been wrong about almost everything. You are wrong again now.’

Neither is there any other obvious successor — certainly not one in Mr Johnson’s league as a vote winner. There are talented and energetic ministers, such as Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi. But they are untested at the highest level.

With so many of the plotters, the motive is personal rather than political. Mr Johnson was never part of the Westminster establishment and has few natural allies in the bubble.

But having ridden on his coat-tails when it suited them, to turn on him with such alacrity now, at this moment of national and international crisis, is simply shameful.

The attacks on him by the mainstream broadcast media — BBC, Sky, Channel 4, ITN — have also been vicious and unrelenting. Even Jeremy Corbyn was given a fairer shake.

Partygate was a heaven-sent opportunity for these sanctimonious hacks to join Labour in a pious feeding frenzy. True, the Downing Street parties shouldn’t have happened but, from some of the TV coverage, you’d think he’d led a drunken conga through a care home.

By contrast, Beergate hypocrite Sir Keir Starmer has been dissembling like mad for weeks about his own rule-breaking party in Durham with barely a breath of criticism from the Boris-haters.

The animus towards Mr Johnson is out of all proportion. Just look at his record in government, most of which has been spent battling a global pandemic.

Beergate hypocrite Sir Keir Starmer has been dissembling like mad for weeks about his own rule-breaking party in Durham with barely a breath of criticism from the Boris-haters

But the really chilling consequence of this tawdry plot is that it plays not just into the hands of Labour but also the Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists and Greens

Beergate hypocrite Sir Keir Starmer has been dissembling like mad for weeks about his own rule-breaking party in Durham with barely a breath of criticism from the Boris-haters. But the really chilling consequence of this tawdry plot is that it plays not just into the hands of Labour but also the Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists and Greens

If the Tories implode, these minor parties would form a nightmare coalition guaranteed to bring the country to its knee

The break-up of the United Kingdom, obeisance to wokery, punitive taxes, all manner of green madness and very likely votes for 16-year-olds would be on the cards

If the Tories implode, these minor parties would form a nightmare coalition guaranteed to bring the country to its knee. The break-up of the United Kingdom, obeisance to wokery, punitive taxes, all manner of green madness and very likely votes for 16-year-olds would be on the cards

Apart from getting Brexit done, he presided over a world-beating vaccine miracle and kept the UK economy intact through the worst health crisis in a century.

Unemployment is at a record low and, though sluggish, Britain’s growth rate is the highest in the G7. Just imagine where we would have been had Mr Corbyn and John McDonnell won in 2019. Bankrupt — and still in lockdown.

On Ukraine, too, Boris has stood firm against Russian aggression when France and Germany preached appeasement. As a freedom-loving country, we should be proud of his resolve.

But the really chilling consequence of this tawdry plot is that it plays not just into the hands of Labour but also the Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists and Greens.

If the Tories implode, these minor parties would form a nightmare coalition guaranteed to bring the country to its knees. The break-up of the United Kingdom, obeisance to wokery, punitive taxes, all manner of green madness and very likely votes for 16-year-olds would be on the cards.

There would also be a move towards proportional representation, consigning this country to the quagmire of coalition politics in perpetuity.

The Tories have a little over two years to prove themselves worthy of another term in government. They can do that only if they stop navel-gazing and get on with the job of improving the lives of their constituents.

If it continues, this circular firing squad can have only one result. A Tory bloodbath which propels Sir Keir and his wrecking-crew coalition into government.

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