Boris Johnson determined to fight any no confidence vote and next UK election

Boris Johnson, Politics, Coronavirus Restrictions; Covid-19

Boris Johnson will fight any no confidence vote launched against him by his own MPs and expects to fight the next UK general election, Downing Street has said, after he was urged to resign by a Tory grandee and lost one of his newest MPs to Labour.

The British prime minister was told by former minister and senior Tory MP David Davis to “in the name of God, go” in the British House of Commons on Wednesday, soon after Bury South MP Christian Wakeford – who was elected in 2019 with just a 402 majority – staged a dramatic defection to Labour minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions began.

Mr Johnson went into the Commons with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide appeared to have lost faith in their boss.

But the anger levelled at the British prime minister was not contained to just one wing of the Conservative Party, and Mr Johnson’s press secretary said he would have further meetings with MPs on Wednesday as he attempted to shore up support on his backbenches.

Referring to Mr Wakeford, the press secretary said: “I think we’re obviously sorry to see a colleague – who was elected by constituents, who voted for a Boris Johnson-led government – leave and attempt to put Keir Starmer into No 10, which will be a disaster for the country.”

After Mr Johnson said in the Commons the Tories had won in Bury South once and would again, the press secretary said the British prime minister would lead his party into the next election.

When asked if Mr Johnson would also fight any no confidence vote in him by his party and whether he was the best man for the job, the press secretary said: “Yes.”

She said: “Our focus is very clear in terms of delivering the ambitious agenda that we have set out, that we were elected on in 2019, and we want to continue to work together as Conservatives to deliver this.”

Ms Wakeford accused Mr Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves” as he switched sides.

A Labour spokesman said the party had been in talks with Mr Wakeford for “some time” and would welcome an election.

He said their contact pre-dated the Downing Street party allegations.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer met with Mr Wakeford personally on Monday evening, the spokesman said.

Asked during a briefing with journalists if Labour are in talks with any more Tory MPs who might be considering defecting, the spokesman said: “I am not going to get into that.”

The British prime minister’s press secretary said she was not aware of any further impending defections of Tory MPs.

She said: “The Prime Minister understands the anger and the hurt that these ongoing allegations have caused across the country and in Parliament and that’s why he’s addressed these allegations where he has been able to, and why we are having an investigation to establish the full facts of what has happened.”

Setting out what the prime minister had been saying to MPs he had met with, she said: “The broad message of all of these meetings is to focus on what we’ve delivered for the country so far since we were elected, from getting Brexit done to record investments in local transport and infrastructure, to tackling this unprecedented pandemic, and we’ve consistently made tough decisions which have resulted in us being in the position we’re in now.”

In the Commons, Mr Johnson apologised once again for the partygate saga which threatens to be the death knell for his time as British prime minister.

But he said it was for senior official Sue Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, as he indicated the report would be published next week.

Facing loud jeers from the Conservative benches as he tried to ask his first question, Mr Starmer accused Tory MPs of having “brought their own boos” to Parliament, in a nod to the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street in May 2020 that the prime minister has admitted he attended.

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, we must wait for the outcome of the investigation, but I believe what I have said.”

The British prime minister’s official spokesman said he did not have access to Mr Johnson’s diary for the day of the event, which could be crucial to showing whether Mr Johnson knew about it in advance – something he has denied.

The spokesman said: “Obviously that whole claim will be something that will be looked at in the investigation, as you’d expect, so either way I wouldn’t be able to comment.”

The spokesman said the British prime minister would usually get a “run-through of his day” in a morning meeting, but he said he could not say what would have been discussed “on that particular date”.

Mr Johnson’s allies had pleaded for him to be given more time as reports suggested the threshold of 54 letters from MPs, which would launch a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, could be reached on Wednesday.

The British prime minister has insisted that “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules” and he believed he was attending a work event.

Dominic Cummings
Boris Johnson’s key adviser, Dominic Cummings

But former aide Dominic Cummings alleged Mr Johnson was made aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.

And the prime minister’s press secretary could not point to where a work event would have been permitted under the rules.

The May 20th event is, alongside others, the subject of a probe by Ms Gray, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the prime minister.

British armed forces minister James Heappey urged his colleagues to keep “cool heads” as he said now was not the time to change leader, with looming economic and international challenges.

Asked during PMQs if he would resign, the British prime minister said he would not.

Senior Tory Mr Davis told Mr Johnson he had spent weeks defending him from “angry constituents”, including by reminding them of the “successes of Brexit”.

He said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday, he did the opposite of that so I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear: Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain.

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

Mr Johnson replied: “What I can tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to – what I can tell him is, and I think have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this Government and throughout the pandemic.”

Seven Tory MPs have now publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, far short of the 54 required to submit letters of no-confidence to the backbench 1922 Committee.

The number would have been eight following Mr Davis’ comments, but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.

Andrew Bridgen, one of the seven, told the PA news agency he expected 20 more letters to go in to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady from 2019-intake MPs on Wednesday.

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