There is little doubt that Downing Street has mounted a big operation in the past couple of days to stop a no-confidence move against the Prime Minister. As we all know party managers are tasked with ensuring that 54 CON MPs don’t request a confidence ballot and we have no idea what the current totals are.
Inevitably when so much is at stake and the incumbent is determined to stay then some of the persuasion tactics in the Commons are going to be fairly brutal. It was ever thus and it will always be like that.
This week it looks as though Johnson will make it but MPs will be back after the weekend and this is not going to go off the agenda. However much the Whips press it becomes harder to persuade the more vulnerable CON MPs when they can see the numbers and can calculate that their seat is in danger. The Tories have moved from their 12% GB vote lead at GE2019 to poll deficits of up to 14% which is a huge turnaround. A lot of the recent damage can be put down to Johnson himself.
It is one thing talking about GE2019 and Johnson’s victory but that was two years ago and the political landscape has changed. That he could beat Corbyn-led LAB then is no guarantee that he can prosper against the Starmer-led opposition and all the evidence is that the opposite is the case.
The big question is whether Johnson can pull back before disenchanted CON MPs muster the courage to get their 54 letters in.