In the dramatic story of how Boris Johnson didn’t give a vote of confidence

The first sign of real trouble for Boris Johnson came on Friday morning when he was booed as he arrived at St Paul’s for the Platinum Jubilee Thanksgiving service.

Two days later he was on his way to the final anniversary competition when he received the call he had been dreading.

The first sign of real trouble for Boris Johnson came on Friday morning when he was booed as he arrived at St Paul's for the platinum jubilee Thanksgiving service


The first sign of real trouble for Boris Johnson came on Friday morning when he was booed as he arrived at St Paul’s for the platinum jubilee Thanksgiving serviceCredit: AP
Boris was told that the 54 letters were on their way to the final jubilee competition


Boris was told that the 54 letters were on their way to the final jubilee competitionCredit: AP

Tory shop steward Sir Graham Brady informed him that the 54 letters had been received. A vote of confidence is underway. He itched to call his aides and plan a fight back.

Forget Brexit, his argument with Theresa May or the snowy doorsteps of the 2019 election campaign – the next 36 hours were all or nothing. If they went wrong, all those years of hard work would be wasted.

But he couldn’t call her. He had to see a royal pageant.

Instead, he painted a smile, raised a tiny Union Flag, and obediently cheered as a surreal constellation of pop stars, supermodels and even the Teletubbies stormed through The Mall in open-topped buses.

Pathetic Tory rebels must now unite behind Boris Johnson and deliver for the Brits
If the Prime Minister cannot regain his shattered authority, the Tories face destruction

Only some time later, around 5 p.m., did he manage to escape and tell his closest helpers that all hell was about to break loose.

His first calls were to Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris, communications chief Guto Harri, chief of staff Steve Barclay and Australian pollster Sir Lynton Crosby.

They ran down Downing Street and decided three things. First of all, the vote should take place the next day.

Second, Mr Johnson should write individual letters to MPs saying it would be electoral suicide to toss it in the bin. Third, he would carry on with his day job. He had an important phone call at 9:30 a.m. with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

When No 10 went into action late Sunday, most Tory MPs thought the key players in action were missing.

Rebels and Wobblers feverishly exchanged WhatsApp messages and calls, asking each other aloud, “Where’s Operation Save Big Dog?”

The whips had grown cold. No one from #10 called. Tory MPs feared Downing St was sleepwalking into a confidence vote.

A senior Tory denied they were caught skipping. “I have heard the shepherd wolf many, many times,” they said. “In the end the wolf came.”

The storm came and the next morning the skies opened up.

At 7.36am, ex-Treasury Secretary Jesse Norman tweeted a letter criticizing the Prime Minister’s “ugly” policies and accusing him of presiding over a “culture of casual law-breaking”.

At 8am Sir Graham emailed MPs to say the letters had arrived.

Political rival Jeremy Hunt was quick to stab the knife, saying the Tories must “change or lose”.

Cabinet Secretary Nadine Dorries accused Mr Hunt of plotting to impose a draconian Chinese-style lockdown on Britain.

But he was joined by anti-corruption czar John Penrose MP, who resigned in protest at Partygate.

Over the next ten hours, a number of ministers toured television and radio studios beating the drum for their leader. He “done Brexit” and “delivered the vaccine” and “got the big calls right,” they thundered.

Whips raced through Parliament, delivering signed letters from Boris warning voters would not forgive them for having a navel-gazing leadership contest amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

The Prime Minister, who had holed up in 10th place for most of the day, joined in the charm offensive. But in Westminster it was the rebels who smiled.

A conspirator hopped through Parliament shouting, “It’s time for patriotic MPs to do their duty.”

Another said grimly: “Big Dog needs to go to the farm.” Leading rebel Aaron Bell was spotted having lunch with Theresa May’s ex-scientist James Johnson, who has spent weeks berating the Prime Minister.

It fueled the ministers’ belief that the conspiracy was more orchestrated than imagined.

The rebels insisted that was a step too far and the letters had been sent in droplet and droplet out of sheer “desperation and contempt” for Mr Johnson. At 4:00 p.m., it was time to make his final plea to be spared the hangman’s noose.

He sent a strong message – fire me and voters will never forgive you. Fire me and you risk a Labour/SNP coalition that could tear Britain apart.

Although he survived last night, even Tory loyalists fear he is mortally wounded. But No. 10 said all along that he would stay even if he won by just one vote.

As Jacob Rees-Mogg said outside of the meeting, “One is enough. What do the French eat for breakfast? An egg for being an œuf.”

Questions and answers – what’s next?

IS Boris Johnson safe now?

In the short term, yes. In the longer term, no Tory leader has ever come through a leadership challenge well. Within six months, Theresa May was gone. Less than two years later, John Major led his party to an electoral defeat.

Also, Sir Keir Starmer will make hay every week by pointing out that dozens of MPs sitting behind the Prime Minister want him gone.

COULD the rules change to allow for a new vote of confidence in less than a year?

The TORY rebels have vowed to continue their fight to replace BoJo regardless of last night’s result. Currently the rules state that another competition cannot take place for 12 months, but that could be changed by a vote of the 1922 committee. Shortening it to three or six months would give the prime minister’s haters another outcry to oust him ahead of the next general election.

IF Boris resigns, what happens next?

THAT depends on whether he went off immediately sulking – perhaps handing the reins to the deputy prime minister – or whether he stayed until a new leader was elected.

But No 10 insiders say the prime minister will never leave voluntarily. If he left now, he would be one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in history. But if he sticks around for a few more months, he’ll surpass Ms May’s tenure.

HOW long does a leadership competition last and who votes?

It could be done in days. But with so many candidates vying for the top job, it’s unlikely anyone will step aside.

A contest usually lasts at least a couple of months, with MPs reducing the candidates to two and Conservative Party members having the final say. In the dramatic story of how Boris Johnson didn’t give a vote of confidence


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