David Davis warned the Tory Party is ‘dying a death of 1,000 cuts’ and faces a ‘year of agony’ if it does not act swiftly to oust Boris Johnson over allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.
The senior Conservative told the Prime Minister to ‘in the name of God, go’ in the Commons on Wednesday shortly after one of the newest Tory MPs defected to Labour.
The former Brexit secretary then followed this up with a series of further explosive comments in a newspaper interview, before he was nearly run over by a taxi as he dodged further questions from a TV reporter later that evening.
He told the Telegraph: ‘Boris will not leave Number 10 unless he’s dragged out kicking and screaming. Very few inhabitants of Number 10 go voluntarily. That’s why I felt the need to give him a nudge.’
His initial intervention came during a Prime Minister’s Questions that started minutes after Christian Wakeford switched sides, refusing to ‘defend the indefensible’.
Mr Johnson went into the Commons with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide appeared to have lost faith in their boss.
No 10 said Mr Johnson will fight any no-confidence vote launched against him and insisted 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 shore up support on his back benches.
Boris Johnson (left) 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
David Davis warned the Tory Party is ‘dying a death of 1,000 cuts’ and faces a ‘year of agony’ if it does not act swiftly to oust Boris Johnson over allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street
Mr Wakeford was welcomed by his new party leader Sir Keir Starmer in his parliamentary office tonight
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 Committee, 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 MPs.
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
But in reality, 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.
However, 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.
The anger from a former minister first elected in 1987 and Mr Wakeford, elected to the so-called Red Wall seat of Bury South two years ago, showed the breadth of the fury in the party.
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 could trigger a vote of no confidence at Christmas, meaning a ‘year of agony’, 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.’
Speaking shortly after his Commons outburst, Mr Davis admitted: ‘I’ve just made myself the most unpopular person in the Tory party.
‘Well, the second most unpopular. But I’ve gone from thinking maybe we can rescue it to maybe we just have to accelerate it and get it done.’
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described David Davis as a ‘lone wolf’ as he downplayed the senior Tory MP’s ‘theatrical’ call for Boris Johnson to resign.
Mr Rees-Mogg told Channel 4 News: ‘He is a distinguished member of the Conservative Party but he’s always been something of a lone wolf.
‘No-one would call David a lightweight, he’s a very serious political figure, but his comments today were too theatrical.’
Mr Wakeford, who was elected in 2019 with a majority of just 402 votes, accused Mr Johnson of being ‘incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves’ as he switched sides.
Following a joint media appearance with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Wakeford said the Tories are ‘a party trying to defend the indefensible’ as he explained his defection.
A Labour spokesman said the party had been in talks with Mr Wakeford for ‘some time’ and would welcome an election, after Mr Johnson said the Tories would win back Bury South.
He declined to say whether there are more Conservative MPs considering defecting, while the Prime Minister’s press secretary said she was not aware of any.
However, embattled Boris Johnson was gifted some breathing space on Partygate on Wednesday night as Tories closed rank.
There are claims the flow of letters demanding a no-confidence vote has been stemmed after Mr Wakeford dramatically crossed the floor to join Keir Starmer.
Conservatives immediately focused their fury on the betrayal by the Red Wall MP, who has a wafer-thin majority of just 402 in Bury South. Meanwhile, Mr Davis’ full-frontal attack also seemed to backfire.
A Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘The tribal nature of politics and the ”professional grump” nature of David seems to have cooled the mood,’ they said.
Allies of Mr Johnson branded Mr Davis ‘a loner’, while another MP who has been increasingly frustrated at Mr Johnson’s performance said he appeared to be ‘back to his normal self’.
‘If you are going to tell the boss to resign you do it privately,’ an ex-minister said. ‘He is not a popular character. He is very prickly.’
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
Some of the backbench Tory plotters include Alicia Kearns (left), who represents Melton Mowbray, and Gary Sambrook (right) from Birmingham Northfield
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 election
Who is Christian Wakeford, the Tory MP who has just defected to the Labour Party?
Christian Wakeford was elected as the Conservative MP for Bury South for the first time in 2019 – one of the Red Wall victories which propelled Boris Johnson to his massive election win.
But the married 37-year-old has now switched to Labour, inflicting a massive blow to Mr Johnson’s ailing premiership.
Mr Wakeford hit the headlines in November 2021 after it emerged he called Owen Paterson a ‘c***’ to his face after the latter was found to have broken lobbying rules.
Mr Wakeford narrowly snatched the Bury South seat from Labour in 2019, winning with a majority of just 402 votes.
Labour had held the seat since 1997.
Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University.
He served as a Tory councillor on Lancashire County Council and also previously worked as a case worker for Tory MP Andrew Stephenson.
He served as the leader of the Tories on Pendle Borough Council.
In Parliament, Mr Wakeford is a member of the Education Select Committee.
He is also the co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.
Amid what has been dubbed a ‘Pork Pie plot’ by 2019 intake politicians, Mr Wakeford already declared he had put in a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson.
And he was on the Opposition benches this afternoon wearing a Union Jack face mask. In a parting shot letter to the premier, Mr Wakeford branded his leadership ‘disgraceful’ and said he believed Labour would do more to tackle the cost of living crisis.
Sir Keir goaded Mr Johnson in the Commons that any more defectors were ‘welcome’, saying the Tories had shown they were ‘incapable’ of governing the country.
‘The Labour Party has changed and so has the Conservative Party,’ he said. ‘He and anyone else who wants to build a new Britain built on decency, security … is welcomed in my Labour Party.’
But Mr Johnson, who was flanked by Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel on the front bench, shot back: ‘As for Bury South, let me say to him, the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.’
Mr Johnson insisted he was not going to resign, urging people to ‘wait for the outcome’ of the inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
The government has been ramping up ‘Operation Red Meat’ with crowd-pleasing policies in an effort to quell the mutiny.
And in the latest phase this afternoon Mr Johnson revealed that a swathe of Covid rules are going, with the work from home order immediately axed.
Masks will also not be compulsory from next week, he said – in a move that was cheered by Tory MPs.
Trying to sweep away the blunders over Partygate, Mr Johnson said: ‘This government has got the big things right.’
Meanwhile, No10 will have been relieved that no other Red Wallers immediately followed Mr Wakeford out of the door. Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, one of the ‘Pork Pie’ rebels, laughed off ‘bulls***’ suggestions she could switch to Labour or the Lib Dems.
In the Commons, Mr Davis told Mr Johnson he had spent weeks defending him from ‘angry constituents’, including by reminding them of the ‘successes of Brexit’.
He said: ‘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.’
Tories said the double-blow during PMQs actually had the effect of helping to shore up Mr Johnson’s position
Amid gasps in the chamber, a seemingly shocked Mr Johnson replied: ‘I must say to him, I don’t know what he is talking about.
‘What I can tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to – what I can tell him is and I think have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this Government and throughout the pandemic.’
In his resignation letter, Mr Wakeford wrote: ‘My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks.
‘However, I don’t believe all politicians are the same and I do believe in the power of politics to be a force for good. So does Keir Starmer.
‘He has shown that integrity in the way he has led his party on issues that matter to me, not least the vital challenge of combatting antisemitism.’
Sir Keir said Mr Wakeford had always put his constituents ‘first’.
‘As Christian said, the policies of the Conservative government are doing nothing to help the people of Bury South and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.’
It is the first defection from the Tories to Labour in 15 years, since Quentin Davies jumped ship. It comes amid claims that Mr Johnson wept as he begged MPs for more time last night.
The PM is alleged to have broken down in tears as he met wavering backbenchers yesterday – with one reportedly saying he ‘knows he is finished’.
No10 denied the claims amid a febrile atmosphere at Westminster, but it underlines the threat to his leadership as rebels gear up for a bid to oust him.
Ministers and loyalists have rounded round on a group of newly-elected MPs over a coup attempt branded the ‘Pork Pie Plot’ – because one of the plotters represents Melton Mowbray.
Around 20 MPs are said to have held a meeting yesterday lunchtime to coordinate sending letters required to spark a vote on ousting Mr Johnson. The revolt was fuelled by the premier’s car-crash interview in which he appeared close to tears when grilled about the litany of allegations about lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
But speculation that the threshold of 54 letters to trigger a full no confidence vote would be reached imminently has proved unfounded. The 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady keeps the tally a closely-guarded secret.
Many MPs are keen to wait for the results of the Partygate probe being carried out by top civil servant Sue Gray – which is not expected until next week.
Tory MPs Gareth Bacon and Jonathan Gullis went into Downing Street today as the PM tries to rally his troops
Christian Wakeford announced he was moving to Keir Starmer’s party as the premier faced a coup attempt amid the Partygate scandal
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 Ms Gray’s inquiry ‘to come forward with an explanation of what happened’, as he indicated the report would be published next week.
Facing loud jeers from the Conservative benches as he tried to ask his first question, Sir Keir accused Tory MPs of having ‘brought their own boos’ to Parliament, in a nod 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’.
Mr Johnson’s allies had pleaded for him to be given more time as reports suggested the threshold of 54 letters from MPs, which would launch a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister, could be reached on Wednesday.
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.
The PM’s press secretary could not point to where a work event would have been permitted under the rules.
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.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told a Downing Street press conference he ‘fully supports the Prime Minister’ as he waits for the Gray report.
Mr Javid, who ran against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, did not rule out another bid in future, saying: ‘We have a leader. We have a Prime Minister.’
Mr Johnson said he would not resign when challenged during PMQs.
During a chaotic session, Mr Davis said he had spent weeks defending Mr Johnson from angry constituents, including by reminding them of the ‘successes of Brexit’.
‘I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take,’ Mr Davis said.
‘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.
The number would have been eight but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.
Andrew Bridgen, one of the seven, said he expected 20 more letters to go to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady from 2019-intake MPs on Wednesday.
Christian Wakeford’s defection letter to Boris Johnson
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from the Conservative Party and apply to join the Labour Party.
From today I will be sitting as the Labour MP for Bury South because I have reached the conclusion that the best interests of my constituents are served by the programme put forward by Keir Starmer and his party.
I care passionately about the people of Bury South and I have concluded that the policies of the Conservative government that you lead are doing nothing to help the people of my constituency and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.
Britain needs a government focused on tackling the cost of living crisis and providing a path out of the pandemic that protects living standards and defends the security of all. It needs a government that upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity in public life and sadly both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves.
Being elected as MP for Bury South was the proudest day of my life. I care passionately about the area and will always be grateful to those who have supported me. Today, however, I am in no doubt that they will be better served by my joining a party that genuinely has their interests at heart.
I have wrestled with my conscience for many months, and you will know that I have made my policy misgivings clear on many occasions in private and sometimes in public. I can no longer support a government that has shown itself consistently out of touch with the hard working people of Bury South and the country as a whole.
Under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party is back firmly in the centre of British politics, in touch with working people, and ready to provide an alternative government that this country can be proud of, and not embarrassed by.
My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks. However, I don’t believe all politicians are the same and I do believe in the power of politics to be a force for good. So does Keir Starmer. He has shown that integrity in the way he has led his party on issues that matter to me, not least the vital challenge of combating anti-Semitism.
I will always put the people of Bury South first and will continue to speak out for the changes the area needs. Changes that can only be delivered by a Labour government with Keir Starmer.
Source: Daily Mail