Boris Johnson says he decided quitting would be irresponsible after 'a lot' of thought

MPs on Boris Johnson's backbenches appear to be slowly losing faith in his leadership. Credit: Parliament

Boris Johnson has said he thought "a lot" about questions regarding his future but decided it would be irresponsible to resign, despite the mounting pressure, because he wants to carry on with the project he was elected to carry out.

He was asked in a Q&A with website Mumsnet why he was still prime minister despite having been found by police to have broken the law.

He said : "I think that on why am I still here, I'm still here because we've got huge pressures economically, we've got to get on, you know, we've got the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and we've got a massive agenda to deliver which I was elected to deliver.

"I have thought about all these questions a lot as you can imagine and I just cannot see how actually it would be responsible right now given everything that's going on to simply abandon the project I have embarked on."

Watch Boris Johnson's Mumsnet Q&A in full:

Told he's lost people's trust, the PM replied: "Let's see about that and, yeah, I'm not going to deny the whole thing hasn't been a totally miserable experience for people in government and we've got to learn from it and understand the mistakes we made and we've got to move forward."

But Top Tories - including a polling expert peer and a former party leader - are predicting he will face a vote of no confidence as early as next week.

Lord Hayward, a political analyst and former Tory MP, told ITV News it's likely the number of backbenchers demanding a confidence vote will reach the threshold of 54 very soon.

More than 30 Conservative MPs have said the prime minister should resign, and at least 17 have publicly admitted sending a letter of no confidence - but Lord Hayward believes many more will have done so privately.

The peer said he'd be "surprised if it doesn't at some stage" when asked if a vote was inevitable in the coming days.

"Whether it's soon after the end of the recess (next week) or whether it happens post the by-elections on June 23, or some point in between, I'd be surprised if it didn't happen."

Tory political analyst Lord Hayward predicts confidence vote as soon as next week:

At least one no confidence letter was submitted to the 1922 Committee - effectively the Tory party's HR department - on Tuesday and its chairman Sir Graham Brady is required to call a vote on the prime minister's leadership as soon as he receives 54 letters (15% of Tory MPs).

He would not reveal to ITV News whether the threshold was close to being reached while speaking on Tuesday, but many political commentators claimed his face told the real story.

With a big smile, he said: "It's a confidential process and I will retain my discretion and I'll say nothing more at the moment."

Asked if he was expecting a "busy few days ahead", Sir Graham said: "I'm always busy."

Lord Hague, who was the Tory opposition leader from 1997 to 2001, said the PM is in "real trouble" after ex-business secretary Andrea Leadsom levelled a stinging attack on her former boss.

She told her constituents in a letter that it had become "painfully clear" to her after reading Sue Gray's Partygate report that severe rule-breaking on Downing Street during the pandemic was "the responsibility of the prime minister". In the letter Ms Leadsom said she agrees with "Sue Gray's conclusions that there have been significant failures of leadership, both political and official, in No 10 and the Cabinet Office".

Lord Hague told Times Radio: “A leadership ballot, which I said earlier could come next week, or at the end of June, a few more letters like that, and it will come next week."

And Prime Minister Johnson was dealt a further blow on Tuesday afternoon, with his standards adviser suggesting the ministerial code may have been broken when the PM was issued a fixed penalty notice.

Lord Geidt said there was a "legitimate question" as to whether Mr Johnson failed in his duty to uphold the law by breaking his own coronavirus rules.

The PM responded, telling his the independent adviser on ministerial interests that he'd decided the code was not breached because he was unaware he was committing an offence when celebrating his birthday in June 2020, along with his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

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All three were fined but Mr Johnson said "paying a fixed penalty notice is not a criminal conviction" and he'd "corrected the parliamentary record in relation to statements and I have followed the principles of leadership and accountability in doing so".

But Lord Hayward suggested the comments from Lord Geidt could be enough to push other Tory MPs into demanding a confidence vote.

He said the peer's intervention was "something I don't think Number 10 could have planned for and will cause concern to MPs".

But Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab flatly rejected suggestions there will be a confidence vote and indicated the prime minister would be likely to win if there were one.

He said it is a "small minority" of Tory MPs in the Commons who have called for a vote and "the silent majority don't always get the exposure that the dissenting ones do".

Raab denies a confidence vote in inevitable:

Asked if a vote on Prime Minister Johnson's leadership is inevitable, Mr Raab said: "No."

What is the process for backbench Tories to remove their leader?

Tory MPs are able to force a vote of no confidence in their leader if they won't resign.

To do so requires 15% of the parliamentary party to submit letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee, which is effectively a HR department for backbenchers.

It would take 54 letters of no confidence to trigger a secret ballot, with a simple majority required for either side to win.

  • If more than 50% of Tory MPs vote to remove him, he will lose his role of party leader and be barred from competing in the forthcoming leadership election.

  • If the leader wins over half the votes, then they remain party leader and are given a year's immunity from any further confidence votes.

  • If a party leader loses a confidence vote then they will be banned from standing in the forthcoming contest and MPs from across the party can be nominated as potential replacements.

The 1922 Committee will determine how many nominations an MP will require to appear on the ballot.

If more than two qualify then MPs will vote on their preference, leaving two final candidates who must then appeal to party members for votes before being elected leader.