Boris Johnson could face another no confidence vote this month as Tory rebels plot to overhaul 1922 Committee rules.
Under current rules, the Prime Minister cannot face a challenge to his leadership until next June, when it will be 12 months since the most recent confidence vote.
But backbenchers have launched a plot to oust him sooner than this by getting rebels elected to the 1922 Committee’s executive and then changing the rules to allow an earlier vote.
At the moment, the chairman of the committee must receive 54 letters from MPs – representing 15 per cent of the parliamentary party – expressing their lack of confidence in the Prime Minister to trigger a vote.
But there is a plan to add a new rule that would state that if 90 new letters – representing 25 per cent of the party – are submitted, it could trigger a new vote immediately rather than having to wait for the full year to elapse.
The count for letters calling for the Prime Minister to go is reset after each confidence vote, but rebels are confident they could surpass 108 after garnering 148 votes in the first ballot against 211 for Mr Johnson.
‘We’ve got the votes now’
One senior backbencher told The Telegraph: “It would be wrong to just run another election on the same rules. We’ve got the votes now to get rid of the PM.
“There has been an idea floating around that when you get to 90 letters, amending the rules to bring in a possibility of a second vote with 25 per cent of the party.
“Bear in mind after the first vote all the letters are spent so you need 90 new letters submitted. This gives the PM the opportunity to regain the confidence of the party.”
Sir Graham Brady, the current chairman of the committee, is expected to remain in his post but the remaining 17 seats of the executive will be contested.
Rebel MPs will back candidates who support a rule change, while the Prime Minister’s allies will support those who want to uphold the status quo. The elections themselves will be seen as a proxy vote on Mr Johnson’s leadership.
Nominations for the executive committee are expected to open this week, with a vote taking place the following week. Once the new executive committee members are installed and if a rule change is brought in swiftly, Mr Johnson could face a new vote of no confidence before summer recess.
Two MPs, Steve Baker and Andrew Bridgen, have indicated that they will stand on a slate seeking to change the rules to allow another confidence vote.
A new wave of letters is understood to have been triggered by the by-election losses in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield that precipitated the resignation of Oliver Dowden, the Conservative chairman. Mr Dowden said that “somebody must take responsibility” and the Government could not carry on with “business as usual”.