Boris Johnson’s time at Downing Street appears to be “beginning” to end, a former Conservative minister has said.
Tory MP Stephen Hammond suggested he and many others were “considering very carefully” this weekend whether to submit a letter of no-confidence in the prime minister.
Asked if he had already sent a letter to 1992 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, the senior figure said: “No I haven’t – but I’m making it very clear to you that I am considering very carefully over the weekend what are the next steps.”
Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “I think all Conservative colleagues, all of whom I know who are in it for trying to do their best for their constituents and the country, will be wrestling with conscience this weekend.”
Asked if it was now “the beginning of the end” for Mr Johnson, he said: “It certainly looks like that at the moment … It looks very difficult for the prime minister from here.”
The former transport minister said many wavering MPs would be considering “what he’s explained so far” on Downing Street parties during the pandemic – as well as “looking at knowledge of his personality”.
Mr Hammond also rubbished claims by culture secretary Nadine Dorries that moves against the PM were a “Remainer” plot of Tories who did not want Brexit. Ms Dorries has also claimed the small “handful” of people keen to see the PM go had always disliked him.
“This is predictable rubbish from a predictable source,” said the senior backbencher. “If you look at where the letters are coming from, I don’t know how anyone could stand up that claim. I think the secretary of state needs to think again.”
Tories who want an end to Mr Johnson’s premiership include some red wall MPs from the 2019 intake, some former ministers and the “one nation” caucus opposed to Brexit – as well as some Brexiteers who have lost faith in his leadership.
Mr Hammond, a one nation Tory, said he “did not know of any co-ordinated action” by those fed up with Mr Johnson. “Sir Graham Brady has a justified reputation for discretion. It appears colleagues are making their own minds up, over the weekend, as they should.”
The backbencher said a no-confidence vote should not be “rushed” – but made clear he thought Mr Johnson had made “very serious errors” and suggested many MPs were now considering his future without waiting for the Metropolitan Police probe to conclude and the full Sue Gray report.
He said it was hard for the whips to put in a “counter-operation” because MPs from all wings of the party were now doubting whether Mr Johnson had any future as prime minister.
Ms Dorries told Times Radio on Saturday that “regicide runs in the veins of my party” – before insisting that attempts to overthrow the leader was limited to “a small group of MPs”.
She said: “There are a small number of voices, whether they are people who were ardent supporters of Remain, who see this as their last opportunity to reverse Brexit.”