Tory 1922 Committee considers rule change to allow no confidence vote after local elections

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

The 1922 Committee will consider a rule change to allow a no confidence vote in Rishi Sunak if the party suffers a major blow in the local elections, The Telegraph understands.

There is growing frustration on the Tory back benches about Labour’s lead in opinion polls, as well as the Government's failure to crack down on Channel crossings.

Conservative MPs are refraining from launching overt attacks on the Prime Minister ahead of the May elections, so as not to undermine campaigning efforts of their local councillors and activists.

But several backbenchers have told this newspaper that if the party does badly in the May elections, they will be ready to go public with their criticism.

Some have even predicted that a severe defeat for the party in local elections will lead to calls for a return of Boris Johnson.

“We need to get our policies right and give people a reason to vote Conservative,” one MP said.

“It's been 100 days, the challenge is what happens at the May elections. Obviously if it's a total disaster, then I think people who like Boris will call for him to come back - locally lots of people come up to me and say ‘when is Boris coming back?’”

'We have done it before and no doubt we will do it again'

Normally, it requires 15 per cent of the parliamentary party to force a leadership vote, meaning Mr Sunak would face one if more than 50 of his MPs submit no confidence letters.

But the rules also state only one contest can be held in any 12-month period, meaning the Prime Minister is currently safe in his post for another year.

It has been suggested that the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, which sets the party’s internal rulebook, could change them if there is enough demand following the May elections.

It would be up to the executive committee, chaired by Sir Graham Brady, to come to a decision after testing the water amongst parliamentary colleagues.

“There is talk that if Rishi doesn't do well in the local elections he could face a challenge with MPs looking for a confidence vote,” said a source close to the 1922 Committee.

“Unless we change the vote, he won’t be able to have one until autumn. What we have to be thinking is - you can change the Prime Minister mid-term, we have the right to do that as a party.

“It’s something we are used to - we have done it before and no doubt we will do it again. The issue would be, if there was a major push on it, we would get to a point of discussing changing the rules.

“We always have to be mindful of the fact that there may be pressure to do something, and what we would do under different circumstances.”

'If it is half as bad as the polls, it has been a disaster'

Tory MPs have complained about slow progress on small boats, with one saying: “Now I thought we were going to get a Bill at the beginning of the new year, we are in February now so that hasn't happened.

“Without question, we have to stop the small boat crossing. If we do that we have a chance, if we don't do that, we will get annihilated. If we can't control our borders, what is the point in the Government? And it’s no good just saying ‘here is some more legislation’ - they have got to stop.”

Another disaffected MP said: “I refer you to the opinion polls. If it is half as bad as the polls, it has been a disaster. What happened to Boris’s 80-seat majority?”

A government source said: “Since Rishi became Prime Minister, the Government has stabilised the economy and mortgage rates, deepened ties with global allies on our collective economic security and support for Ukraine, and set out a concrete plan to tackle the unfairness of illegal migration.

“But there’s so much more he wants to deliver, which is why he has set out his five priorities as the starting point for his vision to build a better future for our children and grandchildren - based on a more innovative economy, stronger communities and an NHS built around patients.”