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LONDON — Boris Johnson is braced for another day of high drama as members of the 2019 intake of Conservative MPs — who rode the Johnson wave to win their seats at the last election — launched a plot to remove him from Downing Street.
The U.K. prime minister has faced a storm of criticism in recent weeks amid a slew of allegations of lockdown rule-breaking parties in government, including at 10 Downing Street itself. Westminster is still waiting for an official investigation into the claims to report.
But a group of around 20 Tory MPs elected just over two years ago, as Johnson made major gains at Labour’s expense, are now at the center of efforts to organize no-confidence letters that would trigger a vote on the prime minister’s future.
If 54 letters of no-confidence are sent to senior Conservative MP Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, Johnson faces a confidence vote. If a majority of Conservative MPs — 181 — then vote against Johnson, he will be removed from Downing Street.
Johnson was last night fighting to put down the putsch, holding a series of meetings with MPs and preparing an announcement Wednesday afternoon that “Plan B” COVID restrictions — deeply unpopular with his party — will be scrapped.
The average age of the named plotters is 34. A Tory MP told POLITICO’s London Playbook: “It’s hardly the men in gray suits, they’re not out of short trousers.”
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports that the meeting of rebellious 2019 intake MPs has been dubbed the “pork pie plot” — because it was hosted by the MP for Melton, Alicia Kearns, an area famous for producing the traditional English meat pies.
Defending the embattled prime minister on Wednesday morning, Armed Forces minister James Heappey acknowledged the “extraordinarily difficult” time MPs face amid anger over the party claims.
“All of us rightly have to wrestle with the competing loyalties of wanting to work for and with a prime minister, who has made fantastic decisions that has brought this country through the pandemic in great shape, versus the fact that our constituents are really angry right now,” he told Times Radio.
“And I just think that this is not the time to be changing our prime minister. We are in an extraordinarily uncertain world, in terms of security in terms of the economy, and in terms of the pandemic. And this feels to me, like a time for cool heads.”
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