PM reinstates leadership election team amid fear confidence vote looms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reinstated the team that won him the 2019 Conservative party leadership election amid concern of an impending confidence vote. 

According to a report in The Times, Mr Johnson is now recording the position of every Conservative MP, scrutinising their positions and marking each on their loyalty. Grant Shapps, the current transport secretary, is said to have a leading role in the operation. Three former whips and other loyalists make up the rest of the team.

The prime minister is spending the week in Chequers, his country retreat, on the phone to Conservative MPs to try and persuade them against triggering a vote of no confidence in their leader. 

Several MPs have already submitted letters of no confidence to the influential 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady; however, the threshold of 54, the magic number that would launch a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson, has not yet been reached. But insiders now believe it is a case of “when, not if” the threshold is passed. 

Although only six Conservative MPs have publicly declared no confidence in the PM, far more are thought to have submitted letters. The pressure continued to mount this week on the PM, as former Conservative Cabinet Minister, David Davis, used his Prime Minister’s Question to tell Mr Johnson: “In the name of God, go”.

It appears the prime minister is relying on the group of individuals who got him into power, to keep him there. The team are said to think they have the backing of around 300 of 359 Tory MPs. Not enough, at this stage, to prevent a confidence vote. 

This news comes amid fresh claims about the party held at No. 10 the night before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021. New reports suggest some staff partied for six hours until 1 am, and that party activities included taking turns on a child swing belonging to Boris Johnson’s son, Wilf. Downing Street has already apologised to Buckingham Palace for the event, but these new revelations could become a point of focus for Sue Gray’s inquiry into “partygate”.

In more bad news for the prime minister, the senior Conservative MP who spoke of blackmail by government whips against colleagues considering a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson, has revealed he will take his concerns to the police. Downing Street has so far refused to conduct an inquiry in William Wragg’s allegations; however, Mr Wragg said yesterday evening he would prefer to leave any investigation “to the experts”. He has since told The Telegraph that he has arranged a meeting with a Metropolitan Police detective for “early next week”, with whom he would briefly discuss “several” examples of bullying and intimidation, in some cases involving public money.

Mr Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove who is also vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, claimed his reports “would seem to constitute blackmail” and urged affected MPs to contact the police as well as the Commons Speaker. “I stand by what I have said. No amount of gas-lighting will change that”, he stressed.

Following Mr Wragg’s allegations, Christian Wakeford, who defected from the Conservatives to the Labour Party on Wednesday, revealed that he was threatened he would not get a high school in his constituency if he did not toe the party line and vote in a certain way.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has questioned Mr Wakeford’s claims, saying he had “never heard of anything like this”, but, if it had happened, it would be “very seriously regarded” by the government.

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