A no confidence vote in Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party will be held tonight, the chairman of the party’s 1922 committee has announced.
Under Tory party rules, a confidence vote in the leader is held if 15% of the party’s MPs write to the 1922 demanding one.
Letters can be sent anonymously and only Chairman Sir Graham Brady knew the exact number but No 10 had reluctantly concluded that it was inevitable a vote in his leadership would be held.
“A vote of confidence will take place within the rules of the 1922 committee,” Sir Graham told the media gathered outside the Palace of Westminster.
“That vote will take place this evening in the House of Commons between 6 and 8 o’clock and we will announce the result shortly thereafter.”
From hero to zero?
Unhappiness with the leadership of Mr Johnson has grown sharply over the past few months.
In 2019 he delivered the party its first landslide victory since Margaret Thatcher on the back of a campaign promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
While only last year he was riding high in the opinion polls after delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe and the Tory party performed superbly in the 2021 local elections - traditionally a means for the British people to give the governing party a bloody nose to keep them on their toes.
However, revelations about a culture of habitual rule breaking and party going in Downing Street during lockdown have disgusted both the public and MPs alike.
Boris Johnson himself was fined by police for attending a party held in honour of his 56th birthday and a report by civil servant Sue Gray found that events held at Downing Street were "not in line with COVID guidance at the time".
Ms Gray - who previously worked as a pub landlady in Newry during the Troubles - concluded there were "failures of leadership and judgement in No 10 and the Cabinet Office" and blamed "the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official".
Had it not been for the war in Ukraine a vote might have been held months ago but Tory MPs felt coy about rocking the boat during an international crisis. While other countries dithered, the British Government was busy supplying Kyiv with weapons and all of a sudden the morality and legality of a few parties seemed a little unimportant.
Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky walked the streets of #Kyiv. My favorite part of the video is when a local resident sees the British PM and shouts to him in genuine excitement: "I'm so happy, Boris! Oh my god, I'm so happy! I love the UK!" pic.twitter.com/YwXrXxNzqF
— Ostap Yarysh (@OstapYarysh) April 9, 2022
Slowly, however, the drumbeats for a confidence vote have grown louder and louder.
On Friday Mr Johnson was loudly booed by a crowd of flag waving royalists at a service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
It was a sign of the public anger towards Mr Johnson - such a crowd is not usually hostile territory for a Tory PM - and early this morning Sir Graham announced that the threshold for a confidence vote had been reached.
Minutes after the vote was announced MP Jesse Norman, who like Mr Johnson attended Eton College, tweeted that he would vote against him in tonight’s vote, labelling the Prime Minister’s response to Sue Gray’s report “grotesque”.
He also criticised the Government's attitude to the Northern Ireland Protocol as “economically very damaging, politically foolhardy and almost certainly illegal”.
Jesse Norman is not just a thoughtful and considered man, but he's also a loyal and supportive one. It will have pained him to write this. But, my God, how right he is. https://t.co/o5BgX9LI9u
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonPC) June 6, 2022
Meanwhile, Downing Street remains bullish:
“Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities,” a spokesperson said.
“The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force.”
The vote will be by secret ballot and no one is predicting the outcome with any great certainty.
Main image: Boris Johnson.