A confidence vote in the Prime Minister could be announced this week as allies of Boris Johnson appeared braced for a test of his leadership.
A minister admitted the Conservative Party “may well” hold a vote on whether to keep Mr Johnson as leader, but backed him to “face down” the rebels calling for him to quit.
Almost 30 Tory MPs have publicly urged the Prime Minister to resign amid the fallout from revelations about Downing Street parties held during lockdown.
But reports have suggested more MPs privately want him to go and that enough letters demanding a confidence vote have been submitted to trigger such a showdown.
Under Conservative Party rules, if 54 letters from MPs are sent to Sir Graham Brady – the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories – asking for a leadership poll then a vote is called.
Only Sir Graham knows how many letters have been received, but he does not reveal the number until publicly declaring the threshold has been reached.
As well as facing trouble on his backbenches, Mr Johnson also faced public backlash during the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend, including being booed on Friday by some sections of a crowd during his arrival at a thanksgiving service for the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson take their seats for the Platinum Party at the Palace staged in front of Buckingham Palace, London Jonathan Brady
Tory fears about their leader’s standing among the public were also likely to have been further fuelled by polling carried out ahead of the Wakefield by-election by JL Partners.
The survey found the Conservatives could lose the key battleground seat, which was one of tens of constituencies Mr Johnson took from Labour in the so-called Red Wall during his 2019 landslide general election win, by as much as 20 points to Sir Keir Starmer’s party this month.
With the Tiverton and Honiton by-election due to be held on the same day, June 23, as Wakefield, Mr Johnson faces the prospect of losing seats to Labour in the north of England and the Liberal Democrats in the South West.
The by-elections will be the first electoral test for the governing party since senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into coronavirus rule-breaching events in No 10 and Whitehall was published last month.
Ms Gray laid bare the details of raucous parties while also finding that the Prime Minister had attended a number of leaving dos for aides, giving speeches and joining in the drinking of alcohol, despite at the same time telling the public not to see sick and dying loved ones in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
Last week Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab remained insistent that there will not be a vote of no confidence, telling GB News: "The overwhelming majority of MPs that I talk to want to see us focus on the job at hand".
'The overwhelming majority of MPs that I talk to want to see us focus on the job at hand'
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said 'it's very unlikely' there will be a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson next week.