Tories would be in for a ‘year of agony‘ if PM is not ousted soon, the former Brexit secretary said
David Davis is warning his fellow Tory MPs that they will be in for a “year of agony” if they act too slow and a vote of no confidence is triggered as late as December this year, a scenario he described as “the worst outcome” for the party.
The former Brexit secretary caused a stir on Wednesday when he told Mr Johnson in the House of Commons to “in the name of God, go” amid the continuing fallout from the allegations of Downing Street hosting lockdown law-breaching parties.
His call on the PM to quit happened just after Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour, moments before Mr Johnson was to face Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Davis said: “The party is going to have to make a decision or we face dying a death of 1,000 cuts.”
The prime minister will appear to be “shifting the blame” if he fires staff after senior civil servant Sue Gray delivers her inquiry into events held at No 10 during Covid restrictions, the Haltemprice and Howden MP said.
Then there will be the “crises” of rising energy bills and the National Insurance hike being compounded by the “disorganisation” at No 10, which all could trigger a vote of no confidence no sooner than Christmas, he continued.
“That’s the worst outcome, particularly for the 2019 and 2017 and 2015 intake – that, slice by slice by slice, this carries on and we bump along at minus whatever and, even worse, we create policies to try to paper over it.”
During a chaotic commons session – before his interview was published – Mr Davis said he had spent weeks defending Mr Johnson from angry constituents, including by reminding them of the “successes of Brexit”.
He added: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take.
“Yesterday, he did the opposite of that so I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear – Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain: ‘You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.’”
Seven Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, far short of the 54 required to submit letters of no confidence to the backbench 1922 Committee.
Andrew Bridgen, one of the seven, told the PA news agency he expected 20 more letters to go to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady from 2019-intake MPs on Wednesday.
The current number would have been eight but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.
Mr Wakeford, one of the 2019 cohort of red wall Tory MPs, who has a majority of just 402 votes, said he had been in talks with Sir Keir’s party for months about joining.
He said the Conservatives are trying to “defend the indefensible” regarding Mr Johnson’s leadership, and he accused the PM of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.
The 37-year-old is the first Tory MP in 15 years to switch to Labour. A number of other red wall MPs – rumoured to be five, according to a Labour MP “source” – are considering following in his footsteps, it has been reported by the i and Telegraph.
No 10 said Mr Johnson will fight any no-confidence vote launched against him, and insisted that he expects to fight the next general election.
Mr Johnson’s press secretary said he would have further meetings with MPs as he attempted to claw back support from the disillusioned among them.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson apologised again for the Partygate saga which threatens to be the death knell for his time as prime minister. But he said it was for senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, as he indicated the report would be published next week.
The May 20 event is one of many subject to Ms Gray’s inquiry, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the prime minister.
During PMQs, Sir Keir accused Tory MPs of having “brought their own boos” to Parliament, in reference to the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street in May 2020 that Mr Johnson has admitted he attended.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said he did not have access to Mr Johnson’s diary for the day of the event, which could be crucial to showing whether Mr Johnson knew about it in advance – something he has denied.
The spokesman said the PM would usually get a “run-through of his day” in a morning meeting, but added he could not say what would have been discussed “on that particular date”.
The PM has insisted “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules” and he believed he was attending a work event.
But former aide Dominic Cummings alleged Mr Johnson was aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.
And the PM’s press secretary could not point to where a work event would have been permitted under the rules.