Nine letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson have been publicly submitted, but the actual number is expected to be higher. Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reflects on another trying day for the prime minister
Two more Conservative MPs, including a former minister, have become the fourteenth and fifteenth MPs to publicly call for Boris Johnson to go, and both announced they had submitted letters of no confidence in the prime minister's leadership.
The revolt by the two Tories come as a fifth Downing Street aide in less than 48 hours handed in their resignation.
Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Mr Bell wrote on Friday that the "breach in trust" caused by alleged lockdown-breaking parties at No 10 makes the PM's position "untenable", while former schools minister Mr Gibb called for the prime minister to go in an article in The Telegraph.
The latest calls for Mr Johnson to go bring the total number of Tory MPs to do so to 15, with nine stating they have submitted letters of no confidence in the PM.
Privately it is expected that more letters will have been sent in.
Other Tory MPs are expected to consider over the weekend whether to write to the chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham in an attempt to force a leadership contest.
On Monday, Mr Bell confronted Mr Johnson about the parties with an emotive anecdote.
In front of other MPs, he said: "It seems a lot of people attended events in May 2020 – the one I recall attending was my grandmother’s funeral...there were only 10 at the funeral, many people who loved her had to watch online.
"I didn’t hug my siblings, I didn’t hug my parents, I gave the eulogy and then afterwards I didn’t even go to her house for a cup of tea. He went on to ask: "Does the prime minister think I’m a fool?"
Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb also submitted a letter of no confidence on Tuesday, saying "to restore trust, we need to change the prime minister".
Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Gibb said his constituents were “furious about the double standards” and said the prime minister had been “inaccurate” in statements to the Commons. “The prime minister accepted the resignation of Allegra Stratton for joking about a Christmas party that she hadn’t attended, but he won’t take responsibility for those that he did attend. I am sorry to say that it is hard to see how it can be the case that the prime minister told the truth," the MP wrote. He said there was still support for the prime minister in his constituency, but that voters were also questioning whether they could trust Mr Johnson. The two Tory MPs' letters have been submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs.
If Sir Graham receives 54 letters, a vote of no confidence in the prime minister will be called.
Then, if more than 50% of Tory MPs vote to remove Mr Johnson, he will lose his role of party leader. Around 20 letters are understood to have been submitted but the authors are allowed to remain anonymous and most have chosen not to reveal themselves.
It adds to pressure on the prime minister as number of his closest aides resigning has risen to five.
Elena Narozanski, the prime minister's special adviser on women and equalities, is the latest to walk out - a resignation that was not expected by Number 10.
In response, Mr Johnson attempted to rally his remaining team in Number 10, telling them "change is good".He was quoting Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King when he addressed staff in the Cabinet Room on Friday, his spokesperson confirmed.
Some senior Tories say the resignations signal "the beginning of the end" for Mr Johnson, but his spokesperson claimed the prime minister is simply rebuilding his team after the partygate scandal.
It comes as The Mirror reported that the Metropolitan Police had been handed a photograph of Mr Johnson holding a beer at an alleged gathering in June 2020 to mark the prime minister’s birthday.
The story of the alleged birthday bash was first revealed by ITV News last month.
The newspaper said it was one of the 300 photos handed to the Met in their investigation into 12 alleged gatherings that may have broken Covid restrictions.
The photo is reported to have also included Chancellor Rishi Sunak, holding a soft drink.
No 10 said it could not comment while the Met Police’s investigation was ongoing.
The Treasury was contacted for comment but Mr Sunak has previously said he was in the room for a Covid meeting.
In another blow for Mr Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid made clear he disagreed with the PM's attack on Sir Keir Starmer when he accused the Labour leader of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions.
Speaking on Friday, Mr Javid indicated that he agreed with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who said he would not have made those remarks.
“Keir Starmer, when he was running the DPP, did a good job and he should be respected for it. It is a tough job and he deserved absolute respect for that,” he told reporters.
Mr Javid acknowledged Mr Johnson had subsequently “clarified” his comments and insisted the prime minister still had his full support.
However, his intervention will only fuel speculation over how much support Mr Johnson really enjoys from members of his top team and whether they themselves are positioning themselves for potential leadership bids.
Earlier on Friday, in a bid to sure up support, Mr Johnson wrote to Conservative MPs promising to re-establish backbench policy committees and provide them with a “direct line” to No 10 as he seeks to dissuade them from calling for a vote of no confidence.Addressed “Dear colleague”, the letter says he is “committed to improving the way 10 Downing Street, and Government more broadly works”, promising further updates in coming days.
This will include working with Sir Graham and his colleagues at the top of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories.“I want these policy committees to play an important role in generating ideas and discussion and so I encourage colleagues from across the party to get involved,” Mr Johnson wrote.“I understand the deep importance of engaging with colleagues in Parliament and listening to your views and that is why I want colleagues to have a direct line into 10 Downing Street.”He said Andrew Griffith, the MP who is taking over as director of policy after the resignation of Munira Mirza, will provide “whatever engagement and support is necessary to make this a success”.