Ex-Attorney General and two more London MPs become latest Tories to call for confidence vote in Boris Johnson

·5 min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street the day after the publication of the Sue Gray report (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street the day after the publication of the Sue Gray report (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson was facing a growing Tory revolt on Monday as three more backbenchers, including a former Attorney General and two more London MPs, called for a vote on his future.

Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, replied to constituents after the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into the partygate scandal, and suggested the Prime Minister should himself call a confidence vote to deal with the issue.

In her letter, she said she was “incredulous and appalled” by the report’s findings on the parties in Downing Street during lockdown.

She stressed that she believed the Prime Minister was “genuinely sorry” for the events and that reforms to No10 were taking place.

She believes the scandal has damaged the Government and the Conservative Party and that if she were in Mr Johnson’s position she would put herself forward for a confidence vote to end the ongoing row over partygate and so ministers could continuing tackling issues like the cost-of-living crisis.

Earlier, Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn had joined Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright in calling for the Prime Minister to resign after the publication of the partygate report.

Mr Wright, a QC and former cabinet minister, said on Monday that the scandal had done “lasting damage” to the party.

The MP for Kenilworth and Southam said: “I have, with regret, concluded that, for the good of this and future governments, the prime minister should resign.”

In the 2,300-word statement Mr Wright said he could not be sure that the PM had lied to Parliament or “knowingly” misled the House of Commons.

However, he added: “The debate about, and investigation into, alleged parties in Downing Street has gone on for many months now, and the corrosive effect of that debate and the Prime Minister’s response to it must also be considered.”

The pressure on Mr Johnson was ratcheted up another notch on Monday night as it emerged that Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, has told constituents he has resubmitted a letter of no confidence in the PM.

Mr Bridgen previously said he would withdraw the letter as a result of the Ukraine war. Announcing it has been resubmitted, he said there is “obviously and rightly still a lot of anger aboue the culture in Number 10 during the lockdown period”.

The new wave of Tory dissent comes after Nadhim Zahawi said “every MP must feel that they can put themselves forward to lead their party” amid growing speculation of a challenge to the Prime Minister’s leadership.

The Education Secretary is seen as a potential challenger to Boris Johnson, if he was forced to stand down.

Mr Zahawi insisted on Monday that he backs Mr Johnson to lead the party into the next election, but when asked if he had ambitions to be PM he said it would be “a privilege”.

Speaking to the Jimmy’s Jobs of the Future podcast hosted by former special advisor Jimmy McLouglin, he said: “I think every member of Parliament must feel that they can at some stage put themselves forward to lead their party, their country — it’s a privilege.

“But the thing I really want is to be able to do this job and complete this journey. If I can deliver the same life chances I had to every kid in the country, even those whose parents don’t have the wherewithal or have no parents, then I will have done something truly great, as big as what I did on vaccines, and I can’t do that in just the two and a half years that I’ve got to the next general election.”

But he added: "I want Boris to win another term. I want us to have another five years.”

Later, former Tory leader Lord Michael Howard declined to back Mr Johnson staying in No10.

The Tory peer told the BBC he was “content” to leave it as a “matter to MPs in the House of Commons.”

In the Conservative Home cabinet league table, published on Monday, Mr Zahawi was the second most popular cabinet minister behind defence secretary Ben Wallace.

He has a net satisfaction rating of 66.2 points, with Mr Wallace on 85 points. Mr Johnson , in contrast, was the least popular, with a negative satisfaction rating of 15 points following a number of scandals surrounding his leadership.

Mr Johnson will face a confidence vote if 54 MPs write to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, demanding one be held.

Fifteen Tory MPs have confirmed that they have written to Sir Graham, while another 19 have said the PM should resign but not confirmed a letter.

A further 31 Tory MPs have publicly criticised Mr Johnson over the partygate scandal.

Three London MPs, Sir Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst), Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) and David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) have already called on Mr Johnson to stand down.

Conservative former minister Tobias Ellwood said on Monday the party will lose the next election under the current leadership.

Mr Elwood told Sky News: “The party is increasingly in a difficult place. Polling is now saying we could lose 90 seats.

“And we still seem to be in denial. It’s time to shake off this partisan Stockholm Syndrome.”

But Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier suggested Mr Johnson remained more popular with voters outside of London and the south east.

He told the Standard: "From where I sit in the west Midlands its perhaps not as clear cut as some people think down in the south east."

Technology minister Chris Philp also rejected any calls for a leadership contest.

The Croydon South MP said the Government should be focusing on the cost of living crisis .

He told ITV: "I think what we really need to do as a government, as a country, is just concentrate on the things that are really important, such as taking action on the cost of living challenges."