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Will Boris Johnson face another no-confidence vote? How 1922 Committee rules could change after by-elections

The i 24/06/2022 Emily Ferguson

Boris Johnson survived a bruising confidence vote earlier this month and is supposedly safe from a re-run for another 12 months.

However, the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs could decide to change the rules and allow another vote to be held earlier, in the wake of two humiliating by-election defeats – and the Prime Minister may not be quite so lucky a second time around.

Here i takes a look at how another confidence vote could be forced.

What is the 1922 Committee?

The 1922 Committee is the group of backbench Tory MPs who meet weekly when the Commons is sitting to discuss party matters.

The group, formally known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, provides the time and space for less senior members of the party to discuss any issues.

The committee then meets monthly with the party leader to update them on opinions within the party.

The group is responsible for organising ballots on potential leadership challenges.

Sir Graham Brady currently chairs the committee and is the person who receives letters of no confidence from Tory MPs.

He is the only one who knows the total at any one time and keeps the figure a closely guarded secret.

A formal vote is truggered if 15 per cent of sitting Tory MPs hand in a letter of no confidence, which currently amounts to 54 MPs.

The Prime Minister wins the vote if a simple majority of all Tory MPs say they have confidence in them – in this case 180 MPs.

If a leader loses they must stand down and a leadership contest is triggered.

When was the last confidence vote?

Mr Johnson faced a confidence vote on Monday 6 June, which he won.

But the result was far from convincing, with 148 MPs – 41 per cent of his parliamentary party – believing he is not up to the job of Prime Minister.

The number is a significant minority, and far more than the number of Tory MPs who voted against Theresa May in 2018 – and six months later she was out of office.

Current party rules state that once the Prime Minister has won, there can be no more confidence votes for 12 months.

Could the rules be changed?

It is within the 1922 Committee’s power to change the rules and allow for another confidence vote to take place within the 12-month grace period.

Brexit campaigner Christopher Howarth obtained a copy of the rules during Mrs May’s premiership, and revealed: “It was clear from the top of the first page that the famous “12-month period/no 2nd election” guarantee was moonshine. The ’22 executive could change the rules in an afternoon to give us another leadership election.”

Last week, one MP told i: “That the rules can be changed ‘in an afternoon’ is correct. The once-in-12-months is a false comfort. May was asked to name a date or the rules would be changed. She blinked. Boris might not.”

When Mrs May survived a no confidence vote, she was told by the 1922 chairman that unless she set a timetable for her departure the rules could be changed to allow another challenge.

Several Tory MPs believe that a rule change could be on the cards, as the number opposed to Mr Johnson’s leadership continues to mount.

Tory MPs expect letters to start going back in over the next week as rebels reignite their push to get rid of their leader.

Many believe that the Prime Minister may not survive a second vote following the twin by-election defeats this week.

What needs to happen for a change in rules?

It is believed that changing the rules requires only a majority of the 1922 executive committee, of which there are reportedly 18 members. It is understood a decision to change the rules is made in a secret ballot.

The tables could soon tip against the PM even further, as the 1922 Committee elections take place on 21 July.

The election could see some of Mr Johnson’s more prominent opponents take up key positions, making rule changes more likely.

If a majority of executive members conclude that Mr Johnson must go, Sir Graham is likely to confront the PM as he did Theresa May.

What have Tory MPs said?

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a critic of Mr Johnson, told GB News that he would be standing for the executive role of the 1922 Committee in a bid to change the current confidence vote rules.

“I’m going to put my hat in the ring on a manifesto of rule change and clearly if a majority of the committee are elected on that mindset then the rules can be changed,” he said.

“I think if the committee is of such a composition that would indicate then the party is ready for another vote of no confidence again.”

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Treasurer of the 1922 Committee, has suggested that the rules on holding a confidence vote could change.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the party would now be forced to make “difficult decisions” after the two by-election defeats.

The MP for The Cotswolds told the BBC’s Today programme that MPs would in the coming days decide whether steps should be taken to oust Boris Johnson.

Mr Clifton-Brown said: “I’m not going to come on out this morning and speculate on behalf of my colleagues as to whether we should or shouldn’t change the rules. Clearly what’s going to happen over the next few days is the Prime Minister is going to set out to both his Cabinet and with us as Members of Parliament.”

He added: “We will then in the parliamentary party have to make a judgment as to whether we think that is a satisfactory explanation or whether we should actually take steps to have a new Prime Minister.”

Former Tory leader Michael Howard said a leadership campaign to replace Boris Johnson is urgent, not only electorally, but “for the good of the country”.

He suggested the 1922 Committee should meet to change the rules. Asked whether the Prime Minister should stay in post, he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I’m afraid I’ve very reluctantly come to the conclusion that he shouldn’t.

“I think members of the Cabinet should very carefully consider their positions as Oliver Dowden has done, and it may be necessary for the executive of the 1922 Committee to meet and to decide to change the rules so that another leadership election could take place.

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