How Boris and his whips bought beleaguered PM more time

Anatomy of a day of drama: How Boris and his whips bought beleaguered PM more time in the face of Pork Pie plot as Tories remain furious over partygate

  • Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour just minutes before the PMQs
  • Ex-minister David Davis openly called for the premier to resign in the Commons
  • Senior Tories said defection actually backfired by helping unite MPs behind PM
  • The defection of Tory MP Christian Wakeford was designed to finish Boris Johnson spento.

    Cruelly timed just minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions, the Tory turncoat hoped his betrayal would drive his fellow malcontents among the 2019 intake of MPs to dispatch a flood of no confidence letters – triggering a leadership contest.

    Excitable members of the so-called ‘Pork Pie Plot’ of rebel Red Wall MPs had briefed sympathetic journalists that the PM would be facing a vote of no confidence by early afternoon – and 5pm at the latest.

    Alla fine, it did not happen.

    Boris Johnson

    Boris Johnson (sinistra) was today told to quit over Partygate by senior Tory David Davis at a brutal PMQs today just minutes after an MP dramatically defected to Labour








    Mr Wakeford was on the Labour benches for PMQS today wearing a union flag face mask

    Mr Wakeford was on the Labour benches for PMQS today wearing a union flag face mask








    Mr Wakeford was welcomed by his new party leader Sir Keir Starmer in his parliamentary office tonight

    Mr Wakeford was welcomed by his new party leader Sir Keir Starmer in his parliamentary office tonight

    Anziché, by last night, the defection appeared to have had the opposite effect. Tory MPs said that wavering colleagues who had planned to send no confidence letters to the 1922 committee of backbench MPs now looked set to delay – at least until the publication next week of a report into the ‘Partygate’ controversy by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray. And with the momentum lost, the ‘pork pie putsch’ appeared to crumble to dust as quickly as it had materialised.

    It had begun on Tuesday when around 20 of the plotters gathered in the Commons office of MP Alicia Kearns – whose Melton Mowbray constituency gave the plot its moniker – to discuss tactics for defenestrating their leader.

    A secret ballot revealed that around half had already submitted letters of no confidence to Tory shop steward Sir Graham Brady.

    The plotters, who included Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, West Dorset MP Chris Loder and Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, were said to have concluded that the Partygate row was ‘terminal’ for the PM and discussed sending in their letters en masse to force a contest.

    But news of the plot quickly reached the ears of Tory whips who have been on red alert for signs of disloyalty.

    Wavering MPs were summoned for meetings with senior party figures, with some even ushered in to see the PM.

    No 10 yesterday denied claims that the PM was in tears as he pleaded with them not to finish him off. But sources acknowledged he was in listening mode, asking potential rebels to tell him ‘what I can do’ to win them over.

    Mr Johnson pictured with 2019 intake MPs after his huge election victory. Ringed are some of the alleged Pork Pie plotters, with Mr Wakeford second from left

    Mr Johnson pictured with 2019 intake MPs after his huge election victory. Ringed are some of the alleged Pork Pie plotters, with Mr Wakeford second from left

    Dehenna Davison with rescued puppy 'Carter' pictured next to Carrie Johnson with dog Dilyn and Rishi Sunak, canvasing in Bishop Auckland. She is thought to be one of the ringleaders

    Dehenna Davison with rescued puppy ‘Carterpictured next to Carrie Johnson with dog Dilyn and Rishi Sunak, canvasing in Bishop Auckland. She is thought to be one of the ringleaders








    Allo stesso tempo, individual plotters were singled out for special treatment, with chief whip Mark Spencer making doorstep visits. Mr Wakeford, a drinking pal of Miss Davison, was one of several MPs said to have been warned by whips that boundary changes to their constituencies could see them squeezed out at the next election unless they backed down.

    One ally of Mr Wakeford said the whips had overplayed their hand – and claimed the threat was the final straw in his decision to defect to Labour.

    The move itself made for dramatic political theatre. Mr Wakeford was hissed and booed by Tory MPs as he entered the Commons chamber to take his place among his new Labour colleagues.

    Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries seethed that Mr Wakeford had yet to realise that the Union Jack face mask he was wearing ‘is not welcome on that side of the House’. Sir Keir Starmer made the most of it, boasting that the first Tory-to-Labour defection for 15 years showed he was ‘incapable of offering the leadership and Government this country deserves’.

    But the defection had a galvanising effect on the Tory benches.

    Prima di entrare in politica, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria (pictured together after he won Bury South in 2019)

    Prima di entrare in politica, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria (pictured together after he won Bury South in 2019)

    But Labour MPs today rallied around Mr Wakeford as he defended his foul-mouthed rant about the party in a Tory WhatsApp group last year.

    But Labour MPs today rallied around Mr Wakeford as he defended his foul-mouthed rant about the party in a Tory WhatsApp group last year.

    Il 42enne ha recentemente riportato un collasso polmonare durante un'apparizione su Celebrity SAS ma non è ancora noto se i due incidenti siano collegati, one Cabinet minister said: ‘In an odd way things have suddenly got better with Wakeford going. People forget how tribal politics is. When someone swaps to the other tribe you feel under attack and the internal attacks become secondary.

    ‘If they really thought it was going to finish the PM off it just shows how delusional some of them are.’ The plot appeared to have taken off in part because of a downbeat interview given by the PM the previous day, in which he appeared visibly upset and complained that no-one had told him that a party in the No10 garden broke lockdown rules.

    One Cabinet source said the PM’s show of contrition ‘may have played well with the public’ but ‘looked like weakness’ to some MPs. In another moment of high drama yesterday, former Brexit Secretary David Davis told Mr Johnson to his face to quit over the issue.

    Borrowing from a 1940 speech by Conservative Leo Amery to Tory premier Neville Chamberlain, Egli ha detto: ‘I expect my leaders to shoulder responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the oppositein the name of God, go.’ Mr Davis is a big figure, but no longer has much of a following in Parliament. Conor Burns, a close ally of the PM, described Mr Davis as ‘a loner’.

    A poll today found that the Tories are 11 points behind Labour in crucial Red Wall seats - a dramatic turnaround from the nine-point advantage they had at the 2019 elezione

    A poll today found that the Tories are 11 points behind Labour in crucial Red Wall seatsa dramatic turnaround from the nine-point advantage they had at the 2019 elezione

    Alicia Kearns

    Gary Sambrook

    Some of the backbench Tory plotters include Alicia Kearns (sinistra), who represents Melton Mowbray, and Gary Sambrook (giusto) from Birmingham Northfield








    A Cabinet minister said he appeared to be trying to fill the role of ‘father figure’ to the young plotters in the hope it might improve his own political prospects.

    How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?

    Boris Johnson is under huge pressure over Partygate, with speculation that he might even opt to walk away.

    But barring resignation, the Tories have rules on how to oust and replace the leader.

    What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader?

    Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

    How is that triggered?

    A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Comitato, Sir Graham Brady.

    A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 parlamentari.

    Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are.

    What happens when the threshold is reached?

    A secret ballot is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

    Ma in realtà, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

    What happens if the leader loses?

    The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

    però, when the party is in power the outgoing leader typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected.

    There is no requirement for a general election to be held, unless the new PM wants to call one.

    Annuncio pubblicitario

    By early afternoon, a massive whipping operation was also beginning to bear fruit in public. Loyal members of the 2019 intake were wheeled out in front of the cameras to profess their loyalty to the PM.

    Stuart Anderson, MP for Wolverhampton South West, said the Red Wallers were ‘not all rebels’. Stoke MP Jonathan Gullis claimed some rebel MPs were withdrawing their letters of no confidence – although he acknowledged he had not spoken to anyone who actually had.

    Focus on the new intake is inevitable given their weight in numbers. Il 107 MPs elected for the first time in 2019 account for almost a third of the parliamentary party.

    Repeated lockdowns mean Tory whips have less of a hold over them. But they are not the PM’s only problem. On Tuesday night another group of plotters gathered at the Carlton Club, the original home of the Conservative Party.

    Pork Pie plotters including Guy Sambrook, Chris Loder and Ben Spencer were spotted dining with older hands such as William Wragg and former chief whip Mark Harper, who have made no secret of their opposition to the PM.

    Ma, amid farcical scenes, the plot was exposed after uber-loyalist Nadine Dorries walked in to address a think-tank event in the same building. ‘They are idiots if they think the Carlton is a discreet place to hatch a plot,’ said one senior Tory, who suggested that Mr Harper is considering another leadership bid himself if he can help drive the PM from office.

    ‘He is pretty delusional about his abilities,’ the source added.

    però, the publication next week of the Partygate inquiry by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray still appears to be a moment of high risk for the PM.

    Several quieter MPs yesterday warned it could be the trigger for a leadership contest. One former minister said: ‘I haven’t put my letter in but I will do when Sue Gray’s report comes out unless it completely exonerates him – which it won’t.’

    One member of Mr Johnson’s inner circle said the PM’s mood had brightened considerably after the events of yesterday and was ‘delighted’ by Mr Wakeford’s defection, believing it would give the warring Tory tribes a common enemy.

    ‘We’ve survived another day,’ the source said.

    ‘He was miserable at the weekend, telling people he was f*****. He’s more upbeat today.’

    Mr Johnson remains in peril. But his enemies showed their lack of experience yesterday and lost valuable momentum. For the first time this week his allies are starting to dream that he might just escape.