Boris braces for ANOTHER hammer blow with Tories ‘set to lose’ North Shropshire by-election TODAY as rebels threaten ‘dozens’ of letters of no confidence over Christmas – and ministers are ALREADY jostling to take over
- Tories fear they face losing previously safe North Shropshire seat in by-election
- Would be another major blow for Boris Johnson amid open rebellion by Tories
- Claims that some MPs have been sending no-confidence letters to 1922 chief
Boris Johnson is bracing for another hammer blow today with Tories fearing they are doomed to defeat in the North Shropshire by-election.
The PM is staring down the barrel of losing the previously rock-solid seat amid increasingly frenzied speculation about his future, following the extraordinary revolt against new coronavirus restrictions.
There are threats that dozens of letters of no confidence will be sent to the chair of the Conservative 1922 committee if 23,000 majority is overturned in the contest, triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson for flouting Commons lobbying rules.
Meanwhile, senior ministers such as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are also being accused of jostling for position in case Mr Johnson is ousted in the New Year.
Weeks of disquiet at sleaze scandals, allegations of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, and plunging polls culminated with 101 Conservative MPs – nearly half the back bench – defying the whip to vote against introducing Covid passes on Tuesday.
The massive mutiny left Mr Johnson humiliatingly relying on Labour to get the measures through Parliament – and raises serious questions about whether he could impose tougher rules should the Omicron situation deteriorate further.
Rebels urged the premier to ‘reset’ his operation in the aftermath of the insurrection, with open warnings that he could face a leadership challenge unless things improve soon.
Boris Johnson (pictured at PMQs yesterday) is bracing for another hammer blow today with Tories fearing they are doomed to defeat in the North Shropshire by-election
Whitchurch in the North Shropshire constituency, which is holding a by-election today
The contest was triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson for flouting Commons lobbying rules
However, Mr Johnson risked inflaming the anger by swatting away calls for ‘change’ at a Downing Street press conference last night, merely boasting about overseeing the ‘fastest rollout in Europe’ for vaccines and pointing to the strong jobs market.
One senior Tory MP said: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. People are angry – furious. I think that there are a dozen letters in to the ’22, but if we lose North Shropshire, it will be two dozen.’
However, another senior Tory MP said: ‘Depending on what happens with Covid, if he comes back in the New Year with some evidence that the No 10 machine has had the creases ironed out of it, he will be fine.’
Amid fevered speculation in Westminster, there are claims Mr Sunak has been quietly letting MPs know he argued against the introduction of Plan B Covid restrictions.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also said to be hosting drinks receptions for potential supporters at a private members’ club in Mayfair.
Mr Paterson represented North Shropshire for 24 years before resigning after the PM’s botched attempt to save him from a 30-day suspension for lobbying.
Mr Johnson initially ordered MPs to vote down the punishment recommended by a cross-party committee, instead triggering a a Tory-led review of the rules.
The move narrowly passed, but he was then forced to abandon it when Opposition parties boycotted the standards overhaul.
That sparked multiple fresh allegations of Tory sleaze that appear to have inflicted deep damage in the polls.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is said to be hosting drinks receptions for potential supporters at a private members’ club in Mayfair, and has sent out a regal-looking Christmas card
Amid fevered speculation in Westminster, there are claims Mr Sunak has been quietly letting MPs know he argued against the introduction of Plan B Covid restrictions
North Shropshire has returned a Tory MP in every vote since 1983, which was the constituency’s first election in its current form.
The area has been true blue, only twice voting for another colour, since the Conservative Party’s inception in 1830.
In the 2019 general election, the Tories won 62.7 per cent of the vote and held the seat with a majority of 22,949 over Labour, with the Lib Dems in third.
Loss for Conservative candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst to Lib Dem Helen Morgan would be a major upset for the Tories.
But senior figures have voiced ‘despair’ about their chances and say they will be ‘astonished’ if the party scrapes home.
Bookmakers have put the Lib Dems favourite for victory, while campaigners on the ground believe the result is too close to call and leader Sir Ed Davey described it as a ‘coin toss’.
Asked on Wednesday if Mr Johnson would quit if North Shropshire falls, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: ‘We are fighting for every vote.’
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