Tory rebels claim to be on the verge of forcing a vote on Johnson’s future

Boris Johnson will on Wednesday launch a fight for political survival as Tory MPs claimed they were on the verge of triggering a no-confidence vote for the Prime Minister over alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Johnson will try to curb the uprising by announcing the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in England – a move popular with Tory MPs – but an ally said there was a “50-50 chance” he could soon stand facing a vote of confidence.

The Prime Minister faces a new threat from Conservative MPs elected in 2019, many from so-called red wall seats in the north of England, who met on Tuesday to discuss the Prime Minister’s future after “partygate” scandals.

Downing Street is looking nervously at the prospect of a northern uprising, and some rebellious Tory lawmakers are claiming they will soon have the necessary 54 letters needed to trigger a vote of confidence in Johnson. “It’s close,” one said.

Partisans do not deny that Johnson’s future may soon be at stake, but a minister loyal to the prime minister insisted that the Red Wall rebels would not succeed, saying: “They are inexperienced. It will not be much . “

Johnson is under increasing pressure over his attendance at and “bring your own booze” Downing Street havefest during England’s first lockdown in May 2020, with some MPs refusing to accept his claim that he thought it was a “work event”.

On Wednesday, Johnson will play what is commonly perceived as his trump card as he attempts to construct his political escape, setting out plans to end many Covid-19 restrictions in the UK when they legally expire on January 26th.

Guidance from home and the use of Covid passports for access to mass events is expected to cease, while the Cabinet on Wednesday will consider the future role of face masks in public places.

Johnson will hail the lifting of most restrictions – some requirements such as self-isolation for people with coronavirus will remain – as a justification for the mass Covid vaccine booster campaign he has been monitoring.

There have been improved trends recently in Covid infection rates and hospitalizations, after the Omicron coronavirus variant swept through the country.

On Tuesday, 94,432 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, a decrease of 22 per cent. from the same day last week. Covid-related hospital admissions are declining in all regions of the UK, according to the latest NHS data.

The lifting of Covid restrictions will be welcomed by many Tory MPs, but on the Prime Minister’s question in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Johnson will face yet another barbecue over the lockdown party.

His problems were exacerbated by allegations by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, that the prime minister had been warned in advance that garden party number 10 would break England’s shutdown rules in May 2020.

The Prime Minister looked downcast in a Sky TV appearance and said, “No one told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that was not a work event.”

The interview seemed to exacerbate the feverish mood among MPs. A member of the government described Johnson’s interview as “brutal” and “difficult to see”. Another senior Tory said: “He looked crushed. You could see it in his eyes.”

Lord Gavin Barwell, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Theresa May, said Johnson’s comments were “hopeless”. He added: “No one should have had to tell him that many people who had drinks together outside were against the rules. He made the rules.”

Johnson tried to quell the growing uprising with an impromptu meeting Tuesday night with members of the 2019 intake.

A Member of Parliament present said: “I still support him [Johnson], ”Adding that they were prepared to await the outcome of the report to the governing parties from senior official Sue Gray before making a decision on whether or not to submit a letter.

Another said Johnson begged present MPs how to resolve the situation by asking, “What should I do?”

Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, and Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, indicated that Johnson would have to resign if he were found to have misled Parliament about Downing Street parties held under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

Raab said it would “normally” be a resigning case to lie to parliament. Sunak urged people to await the Gray report, but said “the law of ministers is clear” in terms of lying. Sunak walked out of a TV interview when he was pressured on the prime minister’s position.

About 20 conservative MPs who entered parliament in the 2019 election gathered to discuss Johnson’s future, and one of those present said, “The mood was pretty gloomy.”

Christian Wakeford, Tury MP for Bury South, said he had submitted a letter asking for a motion of censure on Johnson to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Conservative Port Committee.

A senior Conservative said: “I am convinced that more have gone in and we are up to about 30.” Some believe that there will be more letters after the Gray report is finished.

Gray’s report on governing parties may not be published until next week, according to people familiar with the situation, as her team of investigators is struggling to deal with a constant dripping of allegations. Cummings confirmed he will be interviewed by Gray.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt, the former Tory minister who challenged Johnson to the party leadership in 2019, hinted in an interview with The House Magazine that he would run again in a future contest.

Further reporting by Oliver Barnes in London

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