Something has changed in the last fortnight for angry Conservative MPs. For six months, Conservative MPs have flirted with asking for a vote of confidence in the leadership of Boris Johnson. Several times, rebel MPs have warned that the moment of truth could be near, only for many to back down at the last minute. But in the last two weeks, something changed. In recent days, the BBC has spoken to a number of angry Conservatives.
Sue Gray’s comprehensive report had pushed some over the edge, for others she was seeing the reaction of voters in their constituencies.
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Among the angriest MPs were those who had been at the gates of Tiverton and Honiton, where the Liberal Democrats think they might well overturn a majority of 24,000 to take the Conservative seat in what should be a Tory safe area.
Leading Conservatives told me that Boris Johnson was proving to be a hindrance at the door, with longtime Conservative voters saying they could no longer support the party under his leadership.
As millions partied over the bank holiday, Conservative MPs were conspiring.
Some of those who have written to the chairman of the committee that runs the ballot, Sir Graham Brady, requesting a vote of confidence advanced his letter to ensure that the vote did not take place until after the Jubilee celebrations were over. of platinum
Over the weekend, the rebels spoke with growing confidence about hitting Target 54.
This vote will be secret. Nobody knows afterwards how the deputies or the ministers voted.
And some rebels think that the secrecy of the voting booth will work in their favor; allow some to do in private what they cannot do in public.
Senior critics of the prime minister have told the BBC that all Conservative MPs who have concerns about the prime minister now have to decide.
In the words of one: “Colleagues have a decision to make; eventually they will have to make up their minds.”
In the conversations I had this weekend, there was a lot of speculation about who was leading the rebellion. Was it organized by a central figure, who would choose the best time to send the letters?
The answer from various rebels was no, this was not organized, but rather an organic process, where parliamentarians from different wings of the party simply got fed up.
Somehow, that should worry Number 10.
Discontent with the prime minister’s leadership extends from his former Brexit allies such as Steve Baker and Mark Harper to his One Nation critics such as Stephen Hammond and now Jeremy Hunt.
But in other ways, that could work in favor of the prime minister; there is no coordinated campaign that is ready and waiting with an alternative leader.
Some in the government speculated this weekend that the rebels might reach the tipping point “by accident” because they were poorly organized.
If Boris Johnson wins, under current rules, he would be safe from another vote of confidence for a year. That’s good news for Number 10, because if the Tories lose both by-elections on June 23, there could be another crisis for the PM.
However, there will not be another chance for Conservative MPs to act as they are. A veteran of the leadership battles told me over the weekend that the rebels would be fools to act now.
But they have. After months of “they will, they won’t” speculation, a vote of confidence will take place tonight. For Conservative MPs, it’s time to make up your mind.