Boris Johnson faces more leadership woes as new no confidence letters go to party chiefs

Conservative MPs discussing defections as prime minister says he plans to stay in power into the 2030s

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson attending the G7 summit in Germany. Getty
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership is once again in question after more than 30 politicians submitted letters expressing no confidence in him, days after the Conservative party lost two seats in by-elections.

Mr Johnson won a tight confidence vote for his position as Conservative leader this month after scandals, including a police fine over a Downing Street birthday party while the country was in Covid-19 lockdown.

On Sunday, it was revealed six of his MPs were considering defection and more have submitted letters to the 1922 Committee seeking another no-confidence vote. Under current legislation, Mr Johnson will not face another confidence vote for a year.

“We can’t wait until July 2023. There is paralysis in the party," one Conservative MP told The Sunday Times.

"My view is that the by-election results were a catastrophe. What they indicate is that the values and integrity and lack of trust is fundamental.

"The idea that this is mid-term blues is nonsense. The hostility towards Boris Johnson is so strong in my constituency now, the only way to resolve this is to change the leader. We are just driving the truck full speed towards a massive election defeat.”

Oliver Dowden, who resigned as Conservative chairman on Friday after the by-election defeats, said “somebody must take responsibility”.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain and leader Ed Davey celebrate as Richard Foord (R) becomes the newly elected MP for Tiverton and Honiton after a by-election. AP

It is understood a number of MPs have asked the 1922 Committee to change the rules to permit another leadership challenge.

When asked about this possibility, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said the committee should not amend the rules.

“No, we shouldn’t even really be talking about it," He told Times Radio.

“What we should all be doing is, we have had a vote, had a decision made, we all get on, we come together, we focus on delivering for people across all these policy areas where we are all in agreement we want to deliver for people.

“Let’s get on and focus on delivering them.”

Mr Johnson is unperturbed and said he is planning to remain in office into the 2030s.

He said during a trip to Rwanda at the weekend that he is “thinking actively” about fighting the next two general elections to become Britain's longest-serving post-war leader.

“What I am saying is this is a government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a huge amount to do,” he said when asked at the G7 summit in Germany on Sunday if his aspirations were delusional.

He said the “golden rule” is to “focus on what we are doing” — to address the cost of living, the “massive” plan for a stronger economy, and “making sure that the UK continues to offer the kind of leadership around the world that I know our people want”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the first of a three-day G7 summit at Schloss Elmau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. EPA

The prime minister has urged Tory MPs plotting to oust him not to focus on the issues he has “stuffed up”, after his authority was diminished by Mr Dowden's resignation.

Asked by journalists at the British high commissioner’s residence in Kigali, Rwanda, if he would lead his party into the next election, he said: “Will I win? Yes.”

“At the moment I’m actively thinking about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it," he said.

The opposition Labour Party has challenged the Tories to call an early election, with leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Mr Johnson: “Bring it on.”

Mr Johnson is planning to impose sweeping steel tariffs in an effort to win back support in traditional Labour working-class heartlands.

In the by-election in the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, a swing of almost 30 per cent from the Conservative Party resulted in its 24,000 majority being overturned by the Liberal Democrats.

In West Yorkshire, Labour won Wakefield with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7 per cent from the Tories.

Updated: June 26, 2022, 12:08 PM
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