Boris Johnson has today vowed to Tory MPs that the “best is yet to come”, after urging them to stick with him in a no confidence vote this evening.
The Prime Minister told a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that “I will lead you to victory again” as he promised a raft of tax cuts and supply side economic reforms.
Johnson will face a confidence vote in his leadership of the Conservative party from 6pm, with the result to be announced at 9pm.
It is understood that the threshold of no confidence letters needed from Tory MPs to force a vote, 54, was reached on Sunday and that more were expected today after the end of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
In a pitch to Tory MPs today, Johnson said that “there’s no way Labour can match our programme, they are still in the pockets of the union barons” and that the only way the party would lose the next election is if it descended into a”pointless fratricidal debate about the future of our party”.
He told the 1922 Committee that he and chancellor Rishi Sunak will next week outline the government’s “plan for growth” next week.
Conservative MP Steve Baker told a group of journalists today that he would be voting against the Prime Minister in today’s vote.
Baker said that he shared a cab with two City executives today who both said they would be forced to resign if they went through a partygate-like scandal.
“It’s an awful moment to be standing in this corridor to be talking to you all again like this,” he said.
“I helped him become Prime Minister, I helped him get his 80 seat majority … of course I’m regretful.”
Downing Street and Johnson loyalists have emphasised the lack of any other clear challenger as Tory party leader as a reason to stick with the Prime Minister.
Junior foreign minister James Cleverly told journalists: “There is no alternative plan. [The Prime Minister] basically said ‘this is a plan, I’m yet to see a credible alternative plan from anyone else’.”
Today’s vote comes less than two weeks after Sue Gray’s report into the partygate scandal was released.
The release of the Gray report clearly showed a pattern of brazen Covid rule breaking across Number 10, with the senior civil servant putting the blame on Johnson for overseeing a toxic culture in Downing Street.
Johnson apologised for the scandal, but insisted he did not know the litany of lockdown-busting events were against his own Covid rules.
A steady trickle of Conservative MPs have come out against Johnson in the week and a half since the release of the report, with rumours that up to 67 letters of no confidence were sent to Sir Graham Brady.
Many MPs in marginal constituencies have become concerned about their seats at the next election, with the latest polling showing Labour ahead of the Tories by up to 11 points.
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has led the charge against Johnson today, tweeting that “anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer and more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing [leaders] will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values”.