Boris Johnson could face another confidence vote within days as members of the Conservative backbench committee will consider changing its rules as soon as Wednesday night, the Guardian understands.
Two executive members said it was possible that the 1922 Committee could decide at a meeting of the executive on Wednesday afternoon to change the rules to allow for another vote. Johnson is protected under the current rules by a year’s immunity after he won a vote a month ago.
Boris Johnson’s press secretary insisted he would fight another confidence vote if it were called. Asked if the prime minister believed he would win it, she said: “Yes.”
She said appointments to replace the frontbenchers who had resigned since Tuesday night would come “over the coming days”. She claimed Johnson had the support of a majority of his MPs.
If the executive changes the rules, and enough MPs have sent letters to Sir Graham Brady to demand a new confidence vote, then one could take place immediately. “The first ballot was triggered and held same day – we can move fast if we need to,” one MP said.
However, the committee is divided about how to proceed and one said that at least six members of the committee could not make the regularly scheduled meeting at 4pm because of other commitments – including questioning Johnson at a meeting of the liaison committee of select committee chairs.
One executive member said there was a need for cool heads and for any decision to have total probity. “We have to calmly navigate our way through the position and strike a balance on what needs to happen,” the MP said. “We have to ask ourselves if we have to make a decision of this magnitude at this moment. Is it wise? What does it mean for future leaders.”
There are other options open to the committee members, including waiting until new members are elected to the executive, which is expected to be next week. Others favour a delegation going to see the prime minister to give him the opportunity to resign.
One executive member said they could make it clear to MPs that if 50% of the parliamentary party – enough for the PM to lose a confidence vote – wrote to Brady to demand a change of leader, the PM would know he had to go.
Two cabinet ministers, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, resigned on Tuesday citing Johnson’s behaviour. A slew of previous loyalists have also either resigned from posts or withdrawn their confidence in Johnson – including vocal supporters of Johnson such as Jonathan Gullis and Lee Anderson.
Other MPs seen as bellwethers of party opinion who backed Johnson in the confidence vote – such as Robert Halfon, the education select committee chair – have also said the PM should now go.