Dominic Raab has claimed Boris Johnson won’t face a no confidence vote next week as Tory anger over Partygate threatens to boil over.
The Deputy Prime Minister sought to downplay mounting speculation in Westminster that Mr Johnson could face a crunch ballot on his leadership as “froth” and said the mood at the top of Government was “fine”.
In a series of interviews, Mr Raab said he doubted enough Tory MPs had written to backbench chief Sir Graham Brady to trigger a vote – despite claims the 54-letter threshold had been met.
Asked if he was confident the PM would not face a confidence vote and would fight the next election, Mr Raab said: “Yes.”
Tory tensions have surged following the publication of Mr Gray’s scathing report into lockdown partying in Downing Street and Whitehall last week.
Nearly 30 Tory MPs have publicly demanded the Prime Minister resigns along with several who have publicly rebuked him over Ms Gray’s Partygate report, while stopping short of a no confidence letter.
Former Tory leader William Hague predicted there could be a leadership vote next week and describe the situation as a “slow fuse explosion”.
Several Conservative MPs told the Mirror they were braced for a contest after the Queen’s Jubilee weekend.
It comes as damning report by the PM’s ethics chief Lord Geidt said there was a “legitimate question” over whether his Partygate fine broke the Ministerial Code and demanded Mr Johnson account for his conduct.
Mr Raab was sent out to defend the partying PM today, where he tried to downplay the rising anger within Conservative ranks.
Asked if there would be a vote next week, he told Sky News: “No. I think the Westminster bubble, village, whips this stuff up and I’m not saying it’s not serious and significant but we dealt with all those issues, the PM has dealt with all those issues.”
He said the mood at the top of Government was “fine”, adding: “Of course there’s all the Westminster froth – I’m not decrying the importance of the issues at hand but the reality is we’ve got a load of big issues we’re grappling with.”
Pressed on reports 40 MPs want a leadership challenge, he said: “I don’t know what the numbers are. I don’t think anyone does.
“I doubt it is that high in terms of letters but the truth is I don’t know.”
Mr Raab also dismissed speculation that the Prime Minister could push for an early election as “highly unlikely”.
Transport Committee chairman Huw Merriman urged his Tory colleagues to focus on governing rather than ousting the Prime Minister.
“People can either focus on the theatre and want to change direction and I respect their position if they do want that, but you can’t then expect Government to be able to get on and govern and deliver policy, which is ultimately the most important thing for me.”
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the backbench 1922 Committee, said Conservative MPs need to consider which “crimes” Mr Johnson has “actually committed” before launching a leadership coup.
He said he wanted Mr Johnson to stay in position as “a man who knows how to handle crises”, pointing to his response to the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living.
However, he added that “the situation is changing on a daily basis”.
It comes as the PM scrambles to win over wavering MPs, with reports he called some Conservatives personally to try to shore up support.
Mr Johnson is reportedly planning to hold Covid-style press conferences on the cost of living crisis, flanked by ministers including Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
“He wants to show people he’s on their side,” a government source told the Times.
“He also wants to show them what we’re already doing in a bid to build confidence. He has the platform and he wants to use it.”