Backbench Tory MPs circle Boris Johnson as coup rumours persist

‘It’s not just the events, it’s the fact he’s not been straightforward about it’: Anti-Boris Johnson plotters sharpen their knives as they hint at using Partygate to execute coup

  • Backbench Tory MPs circle around Boris Johnson over latest Partygate pictures
  • Former chief whip Mark Harper and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have spoken out 
  • Tory critics, particularly those from the latest 2019 intake of MPs, are ‘unhappy’ 

Boris Johnson’s Tory critics last night hinted they may use Partygate to execute a coup.

Tom Tugendhat, the only senior Tory to confirm a leadership bid, said he was ‘talking to colleagues’ about the PM’s future. 

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper plunged the knife in, saying it was ‘not just the events, it’s the fact he’s not been straightforward about it’.

Tory veteran Sir Roger Gale added: ‘He misled us from the despatch box. And, honourably, there is one answer.’

One leading rebel said: ‘A lot of the 2019 intake are getting very unhappy… they are beginning to see that they will not hold their seats if Boris stays. 

‘The question is, have they got the guts to do something about it?’

Boris Johnson’s Tory critics last night hinted they may use Partygate to execute a coup

Sue Gray’s Partygate report is expected to be released in full on Thursday – and make grim reading for the PM

Mr Tugendhat, a long-time critic of the PM, said it was time to end the ‘lack of seriousness’ in government.

Discussing pictures of the PM raising a glass of bubbly at a lockdown leaving do, he told Times Radio: ‘Seriousness and government is important. It’s what keeps food prices down. It’s what keeps energy prices down.

‘It’s what protects the British people. And I’m afraid these photographs just don’t look serious, do they?’

Asked whether Mr Johnson should be replaced, he said: ‘This is something I’m talking to colleagues about today. And the reason I’m not giving you a yes, no answer is because this isn’t a binary question.

‘It’s about a team… We need to focus on who is going to lead us into the future.’

Mr Harper, who has previously urged the PM to resign, said: ‘I’m fed up with my colleagues, a number of decent men and women, who are being asked to go out on the television day after day and saying things that are frankly ridiculous and defending the indefensible. That’s not what a leader should do.’

Tory MPs can force a vote of no confidence if 54 of them write to backbench shop steward Sir Graham Brady demanding one.

The number of letters sent to Sir Graham is thought to be well short of the 54 target, and some critics of the PM stated publicly that they had withdrawn their letters in light of the PM’s leadership on Ukraine.

But many Conservative MPs said they were reserving judgment on the PM until they had seen the details of Sue Gray’s report.

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