Raab dismisses the Conservative leadership challenge to PM

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Despite rising calls from Tory MPs to resign, Dominic Raab has downplayed rumours that Boris Johnson is about to face a leadership challenge.

Mr Johnson is expected to face a no-confidence vote in the near future as a result of consistent rule-breaking during Covid 19 in Downing Street.

However, Mr. Raab, the deputy prime minister, claimed that this was “Westminster talking to itself.”

It comes as the Prime Minister’s standards adviser has pressed him to explain how his conduct conformed with ministerial rules.

Lord Geidt claimed that Mr Johnson had failed to explain publicly why his fine for violating Covid guidelines did not also violate the ministerial code of conduct, which states that they must follow the law.

Ministerial code breaking is usually viewed as a matter for resignation.

Mr Johnson claimed in a letter response that he had not broken ministerial regulations on purpose since he had not infringed Covid laws on purpose.

Lord Geidt reportedly threatened to resign over the prime minister’s conduct, which he claimed in a report had jeopardised his status as ethics adviser.

Lord Geidt, though, did not want to retire over the disagreement, according to No 10 sources.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, accused the prime minister of rejecting Lord Geidt’s advice and proving himself innocent of ministerial regulations in “his own courtroom.”

Since senior civil servant Sue Gray issued her assessment on Downing Street last week lockdown rule-breaking, twelve Conservative MPs have urged for Mr Johnson to quit.

In total, 28 people have publicly called for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The majority have written no confidence letters in the Prime Minister, but the total number could be greater.

Met police fined Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak for breaking Covid restrictions by attending one of Ms Gray’s investigated events.

Conservative backbenchers could push a vote on the PM’s leadership in case 54 of them write letters of no confidence in him, according to party rules.

Sir Graham Brady, head of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, which organises leadership competitions, is the only person who knows the exact number of letters that have been sent.

Lord Hague, former Tory leader, claimed on Monday that the findings of the Gray report had seriously upset the MPs of the party, and that the PM might face a no-confidence vote as soon as next week.

If Mr Johnson loses a no-confidence vote, a race to take his place as a Tory leader and prime minister will start.

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, senior backbencher Tom Tugendhat, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are among those being mentioned as possible rivals even though there is no agreement among the MPs as to who must be their next leader.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was formerly viewed as a prospective PM challenger, but his chances are thought to have dwindled after he was fined for breaking Covid rules and was embroiled in a financial scandal involving his wife early this year.

The battle over ministerial rules, according to senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, will “undoubtedly contribute” to worries about the PM’s leadership.

However, he told BBC Radio 4 that he believes the Conservative Party should leave things as they are and stay with the current PM for the time being.

They had to figure out if that new prime minister was going to be a constructive contribution to the country, as opposed to what they had then, he continued.

“Yes,” said Mr Raab on BBC Breakfast when asked if he thought Mr Johnson would be the leader of Conservatives for the next election.

He didn’t think that ended in a leadership challenge, he said, adding that Partygate had revealed serious difficulties.

He told Sky News that he didn’t know how many no-confidence letters were sent, but he was dubious of them being “that high.”

When asked if there was a possibility of a leadership challenge, he said no, saying that he   believed the Westminster bubble, village, was the source of that nonsense.

“To be honest, no-confidence votes and leadership challenges are just more of Westminster talking to itself, not to the public.”

Questions regarding whether Mr Johnson violated the ministerial code have been “answered,” by the PM, he said.