Boris Johnson could face no-confidence vote this week after new partygate pictures, Tory MPs say

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Boris Johnson is under fresh pressure to keep his job over partygate. Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Boris Johnson is under fresh pressure to keep his job over partygate. Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images
  • Boris Johnson could face vote of no confidence in his leadership as early as this week, MPs say.
  • It comes after pictures showing him at a party during one of England's lockdowns were leaked. 
  • Several Conservative MPs said they believed the threshold of 54 letters was close to being reached.
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A vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson could be triggered as early as this week, Conservative MPs believe. 

It comes after pictures of the prime minister at a lockdown-breaching event were published by ITV News, further piling on the pressure over so-called partygate.

On Tuesday morning, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale joined the ranks of Tory backbenchers calling for Johnson to quit. He previously submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister, but withdrew it at the outset of the war in Ukraine, saying it was the wrong time to change leaders.

Tom Tugendhat, the MP for Malling and Tonbridge, who has been touted as a leadership contender, told Times Radio the country needed "seriousness" at the top of government, adding: "I'm afraid these photographs just don't look serious, do they?"

He added he would be "talking to colleagues" about the situation. 

Johnson has for several months been facing a vote of no confidence, or VONC, with a trickle of letters being submitted to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of backbenchers. 

But this latest set of revelations has edged things closer to the threshold of 54 letters, which would trigger a vote, sources said. 

One former minister told Insider: "The 54 must be close based on the private outrage… I always thought there were well over 50 sometime ago."

One Tory MP told Insider: "The feeling is a VONC may be about to be triggered… It's just chatter but it feels bad."

He added that leadership candidates were "moving", noting the vote could be triggered as early as Tuesday and voted on before recess begins on Thursday afternoon "or even remotely next week".

The long-awaited partygate report by the senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to be published on Wednesday, which could prompt further letters being submitted. Johnson is expected to then give a statement to Parliament and speak to Tory MPs privately.

Another MP said that any successful coup against Johnson would require leadership candidates such as Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, and Tugendhat, to work together, although this was dismissed by others as unlikely and unnecessary.

A fourth backbencher said he could "sense movement" but it was hard to tell whether that included "new people shifting".

Brady is known to keep the number of letters he has received, as well as the identities of the senders, hidden, and to ring MPs before announcing the threshold has been met.

Some reports say that some Johnson supporters have submitted letters so they can find out when Brady is close to meeting the threshold, and withdraw them at critical moments.

But there is no love lost between Johnson and the 1922 executive committee, which Brady heads.

Sources previously told Insider that while the group worked with No. 10 during a similar crisis in Theresa May's leadership, that was unlikely this time around because of the personal animus between the prime minister and several of its members

It comes as the Conservative Campaign Headquarters plans an away day for 100 MPs on Wednesday evening to strategise for a forthcoming election. It was described as "awks" by one of the MPs in the context. 

Johnson is said to be mulling a snap election as early as this year, rather than allow his fate to be decided by backbenchers — and to get out ahead of a worsening economic picture.

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