Conservative MPs hoping to force a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson fear a leader’s failure to step forward to organize a challenge will allow him to escape.
Rebel Tories said so The Independent her growing despair at colleagues refusing to “confront” the crisis in her party – highlighting the lack of a figurehead to coordinate a campaign and rally doubters.
A former minister expressed surprise that Mr Johnson had avoided a reckoning despite “disastrous” local election results, but warned: “There is no leadership, nobody wants to step forward.”
A second reiterated that “nobody wants to be seen as the leader” of a conspiracy, adding: “Colleagues know it can’t be done, but everyone looks at their feet when I ask what we’re going to do.”
A third said there were hopes Jeremy Hunt, the defeated 2019 lead candidate – who is defying a contest as the war rages in Ukraine – would speak up and ask: “Who will lead the letter writing?”
Another former minister has told his constituents that the push to oust Mr Johnson “failed” because other MPs remained silent.
The Independent was told of a recent private meeting where a group of Tory MPs “bittered about Boris” only to join in the laughter as the Prime Minister joined them in cracking jokes.
There are fears it will be impossible to defend Mr Johnson on the doorstep if Keir Starmer is fined and resigns for his beer-and-curry gathering in Durham last year.
“How will I face my constituents when Starmer has resigned – but our leader is still there despite multiple fines?” said one of the former ministers.
The mounting frustration comes after the event long thought most likely to spark a leadership challenge – an election campaign – has come and gone, but the prime minister’s position appears secure.
His aides are said to be “looking happily to the future” and believe the prime minister is close to being out of danger because “the sky hasn’t fallen”.
The Conservatives lost nearly 500 seats and control of 12 councils in the May 5 election – one of the party’s worst performances and worse than most forecasts.
But only about 15 Tory MPs have asked Mr Johnson to leave or revealed they have tabled letters calling for a vote of no confidence, and the number has not risen since the poll results.
Some 54 letters are needed to trigger the vote, which would see the prime minister forced to resign unless he could win the support of more than half of the party’s 359 MPs.
Many MPs say they are waiting to see if he receives further police fines for the Covid lockdown parties No10 and Sue Gray’s latest cabinet office into the scandal – but some rebels fear momentum will be lost.
The belief underscores the fragile links between the diverse Tory tribes, the One Nation group, the hard-line Brexit supporters who ranked Mr Johnson 10th and the newcomers of 2019 who owe him their success.
Mr Hunt, the former foreign secretary of One Nation, last week warned of a “great mountain to climb” for the Tories to remain in power, but said a leadership contest was “in the midst of a terrible war in Ukraine”. not correct.
Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister who coordinated signatures to force a vote of no confidence in Theresa May’s leadership, has urged Mr Johnson to step down – but is not actively planning this time.
“If Jeremy came out and said he’d seen enough evidence [against Mr Johnson] that could make all the difference,” suggested one MP.
Another said of his constituents: “My people say ‘everyone but Boris’ – but when I ask who should replace him, my fellow MPs fall silent.”
One of the former ministers said: “I am trying to convince my colleagues that by choosing not to do anything, they are making an active decision to stick with Boris in the next elections.”
Another has warned his colleagues: “The problem right now is him, but it could easily be all of us if we’re not careful – because the whole party will be totally contaminated.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-leadership-contest-partygate-b2078562.html Tory rebels fear Boris Johnson will escape the leadership vote if he fails to organize the plot