James Forsyth

The Tory grassroots are putting pressure on Boris Johnson

The Tory grassroots are putting pressure on Boris Johnson
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Tory associations are about to become central to Boris Johnson’s fate. Even before last night’s Telegraph story revealing how a party was held in Downing Street the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral, several Tory MPs told me that their associations were putting pressure on them to be more critical of the Prime Minister. This is now increasing. One member of the government payroll tells me he is coming under huge pressure from his association to act.

At the moment, only five Tory MPs have publicly called for Johnson to go. The estimate for the number of letters in to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922, is higher than that but still closer to five than the 54 needed for a confidence vote. But that might change if more and more MPs are pushed to do so by their associations. It is worth remembering that lots of Tory councillors are up for re-election in May and so, at the moment, risk being the first to face the anger of the voters.

Last night in Sutton Coldfield, one of the larger Tory associations, the executive voted by ten to zero that it had no confidence in Boris Johnson.

If other associations start holding such votes, and get similar results, things are going to become even more difficult for Johnson.

There is also a device by which 65 associations can force a special conference to vote on the leader's future. The vote is non-binding but would make the position of any leader who lost it untenable. The threat of such a vote was one of the things that led to Theresa May resigning.