Backbencher Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Select Committee, said Boris Johnson will eventually be forced into a ballot showdown with Tory rebels
Backbencher Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Select Committee, said the Prime Minister will eventually be forced into a ballot showdown with Tory rebels.
He now faces a third probe over the lockdown-busting bashes in Downing Street, after the Commons backed a demand for the Privileges Committee to probe whether the PM deliberately misled the House.
Several high-profile MPs have called for him to resign.
If the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, receives 54 letters from MPs demanding a confidence vote, a ballot must be triggered.
Mr Ellwood said there had been “a huge breach of trust” with voters as he called on Conservative MPs to force a change of leadership.
“All MPs are deeply troubled by this problem of what to do given the way he himself has brought the party over the last couple of years, but the issues, the challenge, just won’t go away,” he told the BBC.
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“I predicted a steady trickle of letters, of resignations – and that is now happening.”
Admitting that Mr Johnson quitting now “would be an easy solution”, Mr Ellwood added: “I fear it is now ‘when’ not ‘if’ a vote of confidence takes place.
“Sadly, the absence of discipline, of focus, of leadership in No10 has led to this breach of trust with the British people and it is causing long-term damage to the party’s brand – and that’s proving difficult to repair.”
The PM’s press conference in New Delhi was dominated by questions over the Partygate scandal.
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But self-pitying Mr Johnson went off on a bizarre rant about “kicking cats” as he desperately tried to fend off a fresh barrage of questions over his political future.
The under-fire PM tried to tout progress over trade talks after his two-day trip to India.
But he looked exasperated when challenged over whether he would still be in No10 in the autumn.
He was forced to insist he would still be in post by then as Tory rebels weigh-up his destiny, following Thursday’s parliamentary mauling of the PM’s reputation and as frustrated Mr Johnson was repeatedly quizzed about Downing Street lockdown parties during a series of TV interviews.
Asked whether he was a “cat with nine lives”, Mr Johnson replied: “Talking about cats, we had a pretty good kick of the cat yesterday.
“Not that I’m in favour of kicking cats, for the avoidance of all doubt.”
The embattled Premier again tried to claim that voters wanted him to get on with the job rather than resign over his £50 Partygate fine.
He said: “I think what people want in our country is for the Government to get on and focus on the issues on which we were elected, and that’s what we’re going to do – and I think they’ll be particularly interested in jobs and growth in the UK.”
In London, Tory peer and elections expert Lord Hayward predicted the party would face a ballot box backlash from voters when they go to the polls for local councils on May 5.
He believed the PM would eventually be toppled over Partygate.
“The mood has turned against the Prime Minister,” he told the BBC.
“I expect that there will be some form of contest for leadership at some stage – not immediately, but the support for the Prime Minister is being eroded quite markedly.”
He pointed to a series of flashpoints, including next month’s elections, the looming by-election in Wakefield when the Tories are defending a key Red Wall seat, and the trio of Partygate investigations which could doom Mr Johnson’s premiership.
“This would be death by a thousand cuts and what clearly the Conservative Party – not just the MPs but particularly the MPs – is seeing is that they don’t want that and they are moving towards a position where this matter has to be resolved,” claimed the peer.
“Tory MPs, Tory associations, Tory councillors do not want an even more protracted process.”
A key ally of the PM, Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns, insisted Mr Johnson would not quit.
“There are a number of colleagues across Parliament who have never really supported the Prime Minister,” he claimed.
“If the Prime Minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim. That is a fact.”