Three MPs are reported to be considering crossing the floor to Sir Keir Starmer’s party.
In January red wall Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour just weeks after the partygate scandal erupted. As he did so he publicly called on the prime minister to resign and leave No 10.
But the move served only to shore up Mr Johnson’s leadership as other Tory MPs turned their fire away from the prime minister and on to Labour.
One rebel Tory told the Independent: “A defection would strengthen the prime minister’s position – like it did the last time”.
Conservative MPs also rolled their eyes at a tweet by minister Nigel Adams in the wake of reports of possible defections.
In it he can be seen pointing at arch Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg. The caption reads: “It’s important no stone is left unturned as we aim to identify potential defectors”.
Labour sources played down the idea that the party could secure another defection from the Conservatives. A source suggested the reports should be taken with a “pinch of salt”.
Earlier Mr Johnson refused to comment on the possibility of three of his MPs deserting to Labour.
Asked how talk of defections made him feel, the prime minister said: “I think this really falls into the category of political commentary which I leave to distinguished journalists such as yourself.”
He added: “I think it is my job to talk about our policies, what we have to do, what we are doing for the country, what has been going on at the G7. There are plenty of people who can offer an opinion on that.”
Sir Keir said that after last week’s result in Wakefield, when the party took back the seat won by the Tories in the 2019 general election, “if I was a Tory MP I’d be pretty worried about the next general election, because that was a fantastic result for us.
“And the Labour Party is in good spirits, in high hopes and we’ve got a real belief about what we’re doing. Wakefield showed us at a general election, there may well now be a Labour government.”
Political parties see defections as a very strong signal to the electorate that their party can win the next general election, but there is little incentive to make them public until the very last minute. Mr Wakeford’s decision only became known moments before he crossed the floor just before Mr Johnson faced MPs during his weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the Commons.