Boris Johnson is facing a fresh threat to his premiership as rebel Tory MPs plan to mobilise the party’s grassroots to oust him from No.10 this summer, i has learned.
Johnson scraped through his MPs’ vote of no confidence on Mondaybut 148 of them – 41 per cent of the total – refused to back him.
Now backbenchers are gearing up to react to a double defeat in this month’s by-elections in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield by getting a local Conservative association chairmen to trigger a confidence vote of their own in the PM.
Under a rarely-used rule of the Tory constitution, just 65 local party chair extraordinarymen are needed to call an general general meeting (EGM) of the National Conservative Convention (NCC), an 800-strong body that represents the rank and file.
The obscure rule was first discovered by Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg who plotted to unseat Theresa May in 2019 over her failure to get Brexit legislation passed by a hung Parliament.
Once a meeting is called, a motion of no confidence in Johnson would be held. Although the result is non-binding, its symbolic power would be substantial, rebel MPs believe, and could offer ministers and even Cabinet ministers a reason to stage a wave of resignations.
May survived a confidence vote by her MPs in December 2018, and under rules of the backbench 1922 Committee could not be challenged again for another year.
But grassroots successfully triggered an emergency meeting of the NCC for June 2019. Their petition at the time declared “we no longer feel that Mrs May is the right person to continue as Prime Minister” and planned to use their meeting to pass a motion to that effect.
In the end, the meeting never happened because May bowed to pressure to resign just a few weeks beforehand. As well as the prospect of a new challenge by MPs, the threat of the ignominy of such a damning verdict being passed by the “voluntary” wing of the Tory party was enough to force her hand.
The National Convention is made up of Conservative association chairmen from over 600 constituencies. It also has officers from “areas and regions” as well as 42 representatives from Young Conservatives and the Conservative Women’s Organization
“We only need less than half of the 148’s constituency chairmen to write to trigger another confidence vote,” one of the rebel MPs said. “That’s the next real push.”
One backbencher said: “Just before I voted on Monday, my constituency chairman said to me ‘I hope you’re going to vote him out’. This was someone who organized the Brexit vote in my area back in 2016. And there’s more like him.”
The grassroots push is part of a two-pronged strategy by rebel MPs to ratchet up the pressure on Johnson.
The inquiry into Partygate by the Commons Privileges Committee is due to take evidence and then report in the autumn.
If it finds the PM deliberately misled Parliament over the lockdown law breaking in No.10, the Commons as a whole would be able to pass a motion of censure and Tory MPs would move swiftly to change their rules to allow a second MPs’ confidence .