Red Wall and red trouser Tories unite in Boris rebellion

Rebels vow to continue fight to topple Boris Johnson as Red Wall and red trouser Tories unite with Scots party and leadership rivals to try to bring down Boris Johnson

  • Shire Tories, dubbed the ‘red trouser’ brigade, lined up to vote against PM
  • But also rebels among the Red Wall MPs who took former Labour seats in 2019
  • The vote also reopened a wound between UK and Scottish Tory parties   

Rebel Tories vowed to continue their efforts to bring down Boris Johnson after he narrowly saw off a massive rebellion spanning all corners of his party.

Traditional shire Tories, dubbed the ‘red trouser’ brigade lined up to vote against the Prime Minister amid months of acrimony and division over Partygate, his ideology, Covid and the rising cost of living.

But there were also rebels among the Red Wall MPs, younger more socially diverse politicians who took former Labour seats in 2019, largely off the back of Boris’s Brexit drive.

They included Dehenna Davidson, the Bishop Auckland MP, who said she voted after listening to her constituents.

The vote also reopened a wound between the Westminster-based Conservative Party and its Scottish operation.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross tonight confirmed he would performed yet another U-turn and vote to remove Boris Johnson from power.

He was joined by Scottish MPs including John Lamont, who resigned as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’ ministerial aide to oppose the PM, and former Theresa May aide Andrew Bowie. 

Former Scotland secretary David Mundell has also said he voted against Boris Johnson. The Conservatives have six MPs in Scotland, meaning a majority are now calling for the Prime Minister to go.

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt, who was beaten to the leadership by Mr Johnson in 2019, said he would vote against him and called for a change. He has refused to rule out running in an potential leadership election if Mr Johnson loses tonight’s vote. 

Roger Gale, the veteran North Thanet MP, who has long opposed Mr Johnson, said that their fight would not end with tonight;s 211-148 defeat,

‘The situation cannot be settled like that,’ he told Sky News.

‘More than a third of the parliamentary party has expressed no confidence in the Prime Minister…

‘I don’t believe he should take the party into the next election.’

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross tonight confirmed he has performed yet another U-turn and would vote to remove Boris Johnson from power.

But there were also rebels among the Red Wall MPs, younger more socially diverse politicians who took former Labour seats in 2019, largely off the back of Boris’s Brexit drive. They included Dehenna Davidson, the Bishop Auckland MP, who said she voted after listening to her constituents.

Jeremy Hunt, who was beaten to the leadership by Mr Johnson in 2019, said he would vote against him and called for a change. He has refused to rule out running in an potential leadership election if Mr Johnson loses tonight’s vote.

He warned that there were further ‘elephant traps’ ahead, in the form of upcoming by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield, and a parliamentary investigation into Partygate. 

Mr Ross, who serves as both an MP and MSP, said he ‘cannot in good faith support Boris Johnson’.

‘I have heard loud and clear the anger at the breaking of Covid rules that we all did our best to follow, and even more so at the statements to Parliament from the Prime Minister on this topic,’ he said in a statement.

‘Having listened closely to people in Moray who re-elected me to represent them, and from many people across Scotland, now that this confidence vote is upon us, I cannot in good faith support Boris Johnson.

‘My vote tonight will support the motion of no confidence.’

Mr Ross was the most senior Conservative to demand the PM step down, sending in a letter of no confidence in January. 

But he retracted the letter in March and backed Mr Johnson to stay in place, citing the war in Ukraine, reiterating this position a fortnight ago. 

But this afternoon, after a vote of no confidence was called, he confirmed he was changing his mind yet again, saying he ‘cannot in good faith support Boris Johnson’.

In a message on social media, Ms Davidson, a friend of the PM’s wife Carrie, said: ‘Many of you have understandably asked how I intended to vote in this evening’s confidence ballot in the Prime Minister.

‘Though it is a secret ballot, it feels right to share with you how I voted. This is not a decision I took lightly. I listened carefully to all sides, and particularly to the many constituents who contacted me sharing their thoughts and experiences. Weighing it all up, I voted against the Prime Minister tonight.’  

Earlier today, two Tory MPs dubbed the ‘Covid husbands’ today joined the ranks of rebel Conservatives seeking to force Boris Johnson out of Number 10.

Ex-minister Jesse Norman penned an excoriating letter to the Prime Minister this morning in which he accused Mr Johnson’s Government of lacking ‘a sense of mission’.

He was later joined in the rebel ranks by John Penrose, who quit as the PM’s anti-corruption tsar and told Mr Johnson ‘it’s over’ for his premiership.

The pair are known as the ‘Covid husbands’ due to the high-profile roles their wives held during the Coronavirus crisis.

Mr Norman’s wife, Kate Bingham, was chair of the Government’s vaccine taskforce that oversaw the purchase of millions of Covid jabs.

Mr Penrose’s wife, Dido Harding, was the beleagured head of the £37billion NHS Test and Trace programme.

Her role has been much-criticised by MPs, who found the flagship programme failed to achieve ‘its main objective’ to cut Covid infection levels.

Mr Norman and Mr Penrose were soon joined in their public agitation against Mr Johnson today by the PM’s long-time rival Mr Hunt.

The ex-health secretary declared he would be ‘voting for change’ when Tory MPs hold a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership tonight.


Jesse Norman (left) and John Penrose are known as the ‘Covid husbands’ due to the high-profile roles their wives held during the Coronavirus crisis

Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, also joined the revolt against Mr Johnson’s leadership as he revealed he would not be supporting the PM tonight

Mr Hunt, who also previously served as foreign secretary, was beaten by Mr Johnson to the Tory leadership in 2019 when party members elected a successor to Theresa May.

He has repeatedly failed to rule out another leadership challenge in a string of media appearances in recent weeks.

Mr Hunt characterised tonight’s vote as a choice between ‘change or lose’ for Tory MPs.

‘Having been trusted with power, Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘We are not offering the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country.

‘And because we are no longer trusted by the electorate, who know this too, we are set to lose the next general election.

‘Anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer & more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values.’

Earlier, in his letter to the PM, Mr Norman blasted Mr Johnson for a ‘grotesque’ claim he had been ‘vindicated’ by Sue Gray’s report into Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.

He also criticised the PM for seeking to unilaterally set aside the Northern Ireland Protocol, over the ‘ugly’ scheme for deporting migrants to Rwanda, and for the ‘provocative’ privatisation of Channel 4.

Mr Norman, a former Treasury minister, told the PM: ‘You are simply seeking to campaign, to keep changing the subject and to create political and cultural dividing lines mainly for your advantage, at a time when the economy is struggling, inflation is soaring and growth is anaemic at best.’

Mr Penrose announced his resignation as the PM’s anti-corruption tsar as he  accused Mr Johnson of breaching ministerial rules on the grounds he had failed to provide adequate leadership over Partygate.

Speaking later to Sky News, the ex-Northern Ireland minister claimed it was ‘the beginning of the end’ for Mr Johnson as PM.

‘I think it’s over, it feels now like a question of when not if,’ he said.

‘But, we will have to wait and see what the result is. If he has a thumping victory this evening then that might be different.

‘But, at the moment in so far as anyone can tell, it feels like the beginning of the end.’ 

Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, also joined the revolt against Mr Johnson’s leadership today as he revealed he would not be supporting the PM tonight.

He posted on Twitter: ‘The country has reason to be grateful to Boris Johnson for getting Brexit done after a period of uncertainty and for securing a successful vaccine programme in the face of the pandemic.

‘However, I waited for the Sue Gray report & was disappointed to read its contents. I have concluded that it is now time for a different kind of leadership and a new team.’

Despite the ranks of Tory rebels growing, a stream of Boris-backing MPs offered their support for the PM on social media and declared they would be voting for him tonight

Mr Hunt characterised tonight’s confidence vote in the PM’s leadership as a choice between ‘change or lose’ for Tory MPs

The last few weeks have seen a string of disgruntled Conservative backbenchers withdraw their support for the PM and call for him to quit.

There have also been a number of Tory MPs who have criticised Mr Johnson over the Partygate scandal, but stopped short of publicly demanding the PM’s resignation.

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory MPs Douglas Ross and Neil Hudson have both insisted Mr Johnson should go – but not while the war in Ukraine continue.

There was a furious pushback against the Tory rebels today after the announcement of tonight’s confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

A stream of MPs offered their support for the PM on social media and declared they would be backing him at the crunch vote.

They included members of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries also laying into Mr Hunt.

In a series of angry Twitter posts, she told Mr Hunt – if he had been Tory leader at the 2019 general election – he would have ‘handed the keys of No10’ to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

She also claimed his handling of the Covid pandemic ‘would have been a disaster’, adding: ‘You’ve been wrong about almost everything, you are wrong again now.’

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