Blow after blow but “delusional” Boris Johnson swears to survive the unsurvivable
The big Tories spent the afternoon trying to get 40% of the parliamentary party – 144 MPs – to submit letters of no confidence to the prime minister, so he could be given an ultimatum. Unless he resigns, the 1922 Committee would change the rules to allow another vote of confidence, removing the current 12-month grace period, if 40% of MPs appealed for one – a threshold they would already have achieved.
The executive did not change the rules at its meeting, but agreed to elect a new committee on Monday – which is likely to change the rules and hold another vote of confidence if Mr Johnson is still in office by then. None of the 10 officials insisted that Mr Johnson would fight another confidence vote if there was one.
Meanwhile, another plot was underway, this time involving cabinet ministers.
Several Cabinet members contacted the Chief Whip during the day to tell him they intended to resign. Among them was Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, who told Mr Johnson on Tuesday night he would have to step down as Mr Johnson made a frantic round of his cabinet to see who else might go.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, went so far as to write a letter of resignation. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, also told the chief whip that it was time for the prime minister to leave.
Mr Heaton-Harris, having already said the same to the Prime Minister himself, put forward an alternative proposal – rather than resign, he suggested, they should join him in forming a delegation that would visit to the Prime Minister later that day and tell him it was him or them.
When Mr Johnson bravely continued his 3 p.m. appearance before the Liaison Committee, he had no idea of the plot unfolding behind his back, although he was well aware that nearly 30 members of the government had resigned at that time.
The crowded meeting began incongruously, with questions about Ukraine, defense spending and even fertilizer production.
Mr Johnson, who most of those present expected to be gone by the end of the day, was even quizzed on how he plans to replace road and fuel tax in 2030.
But as the two-hour hearing wore on and news of the coup against him filtered through to MPs on their phones, questions turned to whether Mr Johnson would step down or continue to fight.
A total of 10 members of the Government, including two ministers, announced their resignation during the meeting. Among them is Mark Fletcher, who resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Business Secretary and used his letter to describe Mr Johnson as ‘an apologist for someone who committed a sexual assault’.
Huw Merriman, a member of the committee, even tweeted a statement confirming that he had submitted a letter of censure to the Prime Minister while sitting opposite him as part of the panel questioning him.