Supporters of Boris leadership bid ask: Do we knife the PM now, or wait for a Commons vote on Brexit deal?
- Mr Johnson’s allies have been debating whether to join the plot to oust Mrs May
- Some warn that if the PM wins a confidence vote she would be safe for a year
- But others say it is risky to wait for a Commons vote which the PM might yet win
Supporters of a Boris Johnson leadership bid are at war over whether to attempt to force Theresa May out now – or wait until she brings her Brexit deal to the Commons.
The former Foreign Secretary’s entourage has been debating furiously if they should join Jacob Rees-Mogg’s campaign to force a vote of no-confidence in the Tory leader.
Some influential figures warn that if a vote is held now and Mrs May wins it, she would be locked into the job for the next year. They say they should hold off from sending in letters to the 1922 Committee until after the Commons votes on the Brexit deal – believing that MPs will reject it and bring the Prime Minister down.
Tory allies of Boris Johnson (pictured this week) are at war over whether to attempt to force Theresa May out now – or wait until she brings her Brexit deal to the Commons
Some influential figures warn that if a Conservative confidence vote is held now and Theresa May (pictured) wins it, she would be locked into the job for the next year
The 1922 Committee has the power to trigger a secret ballot to vote for a party leader if it receives 48 letters of no-confidence in Mrs May. One Johnson supporter said: ‘If we shot now and missed, not only would she still be in charge of the Brexit process, she might even be emboldened enough to lead us into the next Election. That has got to concentrate minds.’
Others argue that it is too risky to let the deal go to a Commons vote – in case she gets it onto the statute book.
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A source close to Mr Johnson said: ‘Boris has never said whether he has put in a letter himself, and is not in the game of giving his advice on the matter either. He is keeping his head down. But if a contest is triggered, he will run.’
Mr Johnson has, by his standards, kept a low profile since the full details of the draft Brexit deal were published last week. His only comment on Twitter was on Wednesday morning, ahead of the tense Cabinet meeting, when he urged his former ministerial colleagues to reject the agreement.
Michael Gove (pictured outside his London home yesterday) is one of the Brexiteers who has stayed in the Cabinet in a bid to influence the Brexit deal from inside Government
He said that EU negotiators were clear that the customs agreement would be permanent and would make impossible his preferred trading deal, which he calls ‘Super-Canada’. He urged: ‘Cabinet must live up to its responsibilities & stop this deal.’
The following evening, as the Cabinet revolt was under way, Mr Johnson was seen in a restaurant talking to former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
It prompted speculation of an alliance between two of the key personalities who drove the successful Leave campaign. But sources insisted it was a chance meeting and Mr Johnson was dining with his father, Remain-supporting Stanley.
Boris Johnson is still among the bookies’ favourites in any Conservative leadership contest because of his popularity among grassroots members.
He was the biggest draw at last month’s party conference, despite controversial comments and gaffes that would have finished off many politicians.
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