Boris Johnson risks a leadership challenge unless No 10 “gets its act together”, says a senior Tory MP, in a sharp criticism of the prime minister.
Simon Hoare attacked the botched attempt to rip up anti-sleaze rules to save the disgraced Owen Paterson and a failure to liaise properly with Conservative MPs.
The chair of the Commons Northern Ireland committee said it was not yet time to discuss “leadership challenges”, amid claims that some of his colleagues have submitted letters, pushing for that to happen.
But he added: “That comes with a health warning, that No 10 as an operation needs to pull its socks up, get its act together, start talking to the parliamentary party far more than it has been doing up until now.
“That has, of course, been difficult because of Covid and the restrictions being there … I don’t think we’ve gone past the point of no return, but the act needs to get better.”
The criticism comes after Mr Johnson’s speech to the CBI – in which he mislaid part of his text and talked about his visit to the Peppa Pig World theme park – was widely ridiculed.
Allegations of sleaze will return to centre-stage at Westminster on Monday, with the publication of cross-party recommendations for a crackdown on MPs’ second jobs.
In a U-turn this month, Mr Johnson angered his older MPs with lucrative outside earnings by suddenly proposing curbing outside work to “within reasonable limits”.
He had already alienated newer MPs in marginal seats by whipping them to protect Mr Paterson – before a public backlash forced a humiliating retreat and left them exposed to criticism.
Meanwhile, crucial announcements on capping social care costs and on improving Northern rail services backfired when key elements of both were watered down.
On Sunday Politics on BBC Northern Ireland, Mr Hoare said the forcing through of an amendment to prevent Mr Paterson being censored and suspended from parliament was “manifestly wrong”.
And he added: “Clearly the operation of No 10 needs to sharpen itself, the political antenna of No 10 need to be far more acute.”
A total of 54 MPs – 15 per cent of the total elected to the Commons – would need to submit letters requesting a leadership challenge before it would go ahead.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and foreign secretary Liz Truss are the grassroots favourites to take over, with both considered to be “on manoeuvres”.
Sajid Javid attempted to bolster the prime minister’s position saying it he is still “absolutely” an election winner, despite the recent difficulties.
“Let me tell you why: Because we are delivering on our promises,” he told Sky News, as he discussed the new Covid restrictions.