Partygate: Loyal Tory MPs planning succession as Boris Johnson given just months to save premiership

Boris Johnson has just months to save his premiership as even loyal MPs and ministers have begun planning for his succession, it is understood.

Ministers were said to have started thinking about alternative leaders after Mr Johnson suffered a rebellion of 148 Tory MPs in Monday’s no-confidence vote in his leadership.

Conservative MPs and ministers who are loyal to the Prime Minister told The Scotsman they now believe he has around six months to save his leadership.

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A group of 2019 intake MPs who supported Mr Johnson, including some from the so-called Red Wall Mr Johnson is credited with winning, were now “worried about their seats” and were actively seeking out viable candidates.

Boris Johnson buying a bottle of wine at the Royal Cornwall show at Whitecross near Wadebridge. Picture PA WireBoris Johnson buying a bottle of wine at the Royal Cornwall show at Whitecross near Wadebridge. Picture PA Wire
Boris Johnson buying a bottle of wine at the Royal Cornwall show at Whitecross near Wadebridge. Picture PA Wire

One supportive minister said it was now a matter of “when, not if” that the Prime Minister is forced out.

A Tory source said of ministers who were left “shocked” by Monday’s vote result: “I suspect what is happening is they are privately talking one-on-one, and thinking ‘where do we go now?’” Meanwhile, a Red Wall MP who supported Mr Johnson said he now looked like a “lame duck”.

“Unless Boris does something radical in the next few months, he can’t last more than six months,” the MP said.

“I’ve discussed with colleagues who were supporters, who say we cannot go into another election in the current situation, we need to have some radical policies.”

They added: “I know colleagues, similar to me, who think our job now over the next few months is to find a viable alternative.”

It came after Mr Johnson’s former Brexit minister Lord Frost said his old ally had until autumn to set out a clear Conservative vision for the future or face being ousted by his own MPs.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Lord Frost said the biggest problem now facing the Government was not the issue of lockdown parties in Downing Street, but that voters did not understand what it was trying to do.

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“Every prime minister has weaknesses and blind spots,” he said. “The issue is whether they are able to compensate for them. Mr Johnson probably has between now and the party conference to show he can do that.”

Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie suggested his party had run out of ideas.

Writing for ConservativeHome, he said the Tories were now “a strange mix of complacency, entitlement, fear and exhaustion” after 12 years in power.

“It is a toxic combination,” he wrote. “Where’s the big idea? What’s the challenge to us? What’s the offer to the country?

The warnings came after Mr Johnson tried to set his premiership back on track with a keynote speech in which he reaffirmed his commitment to cut taxes and set out plans to extend the right-to-buy scheme.

Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher, who supported Mr Johnson, told The Times: “The whole point of this Government is two things.

“To get Brexit done and then to level up. And unfortunately, because of Covid, the levelling up hasn’t really been doneyet.”



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