Boris Johnson due to be Britains new Prime Minister at 11.45am today
Boris Johnson will today appeal to his warring party to unite behind him after an extraordinary attempt by one of his own MPs to prevent him becoming Prime Minister.
Barring a last-minute shock, Mr Johnson is set to be named as the Conservative Party’s new leader this morning following a six-week contest that has been dominated by Brexit.
Sources in Mr Johnson’s camp last night predicted he would secure more than 60 per cent of the vote, giving him a ‘free hand’ to sack his enemies and steer the Tories on a new course.
Barring a last-minute shock, Mr Johnson (pictured on Monday) is set to be named as the Conservative Party’s new leader this morning following a six-week contest that has been dominated by Brexit
He has planned a short acceptance speech in which he will repeat his campaign pledge to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, and urge his party to turn its guns on Jeremy Corbyn.
But he is also expected to make an appeal for party unity following a fractious campaign which has seen Tory Remainers vow to bring down his government if he tries to pursue a No Deal exit.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson’s former deputy Alan Duncan dramatically quit as Foreign Office minister in an apparent bid to prevent him becoming PM.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson’s former deputy Alan Duncan (pictured) dramatically quit as Foreign Office minister in an apparent bid to prevent him becoming PM
Sir Alan, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, invoked the Queen as he attempted to force a confidence vote in the Commons today – but the move was ruled out by the Speaker John Bercow.
International development secretary Rory Stewart also informed Mr Johnson yesterday that he would be resigning from the Cabinet before he takes power, following the lead set by Philip Hammond and justice secretary David Gauke.
Mr Stewart last night indicated he would join the band of Remainer rebels on the Tory backbenches, saying: ‘There is a majority of two, and I have at least three friends.’
In all, up to a dozen ministers are expected to jump ship in the next 36 hours before Mr Johnson officially becomes PM tomorrow afternoon.
Milkshakes tax ‘bomb’ left by May
Theresa May pressed ahead with plans for a tax on milkshakes last night – even though Boris Johnson has warned it will be scrapped if he gets into No 10.
In one of her final acts, the Prime Minister published proposals in a green paper to extend the levy on sugary drinks – despite warnings from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they should be put on hold until a new PM is in place.
A source said: ‘Matt’s view was that the paper should be held so it is not seen as her thing and then killed off by Boris.’
Mr Johnson has pledged to stop the rollout of ‘sin taxes’, specifically warning that one on milkshakes would ‘clobber’ the poor.
On the eve of what is likely to be a dramatic few days, former prime ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major warned Mr Johnson that pursuing a No Deal Brexit would end in disaster.
Newly elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson also predicted she could become prime minister if Mr Johnson is forced to call a snap election this year.
If Mr Johnson is elected as Tory leader today he will formally become prime minister tomorrow. Mrs May will take a final session of prime minister’s questions in the Commons tomorrow before travelling to Buckingham palace to inform the Queen of her resignation.
Whitehall sources said that, despite the government’s slender majority, Her Majesty is then expected to send for Mr Johnson.
The former foreign secretary will then begin an immediate Cabinet reshuffle. Casualties are expected to include Mrs May’s deputy David Lidington, the business secretary Greg Clark and the Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley.
Mr Johnson is then preparing to make a Commons statement setting out his programme for government on Thursday, just hours before MPs break up for the long summer recess. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who is expected to join the Cabinet, last night played down the prospect of a serious mutiny against the new leader by Tory MPs.
He added: ‘I think the number of troublemakers will be relatively few because it will be so obviously self-indulgent.’ But attitudes among Tory MPs opposed to a No Deal Brexit appeared to be hardening last night.
Mr Stewart revealed that he had been invited for talks with Mr Johnson, but had told him he would rather quit his Cabinet job than serve in a Government prepared to contemplate a No Deal Brexit. Earlier, Sir Alan resigned with a warning that Brexit had placed a ‘dark cloud’ over the country.
International development secretary Rory Stewart (pictured) also informed Mr Johnson yesterday that he would be resigning from the Cabinet before he takes power, following the lead set by Philip Hammond and justice secretary David Gauke
Boris Johnson wants his party to unite behind him so they can turn their guns on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured)
The minister, who once described Mr Johnson as a ‘circus act’, wrote to Mr Bercow proposing a Commons vote today on Mr Johnson’s acceptability as PM.
He wrote: ‘This is the first time in our parliamentary history that the prime minister of a minority government has changed in mid-term. Thus the normal assumption that the succession is automatic cannot be said to apply, and his ability to command a majority in the House should arguably be tested before the Prime Minister can safely advise the Queen who should succeed her.’
After the proposal was rejected, Sir Alan warned of a ‘constitutional crisis’ in the coming months if Mr Johnson loses a confidence vote after becoming PM.
Another rebel Tory, Philip Lee, said of Mr Johnson: ‘I don’t see how he has got a majority to govern. It’s a very, very fragile situation with only a tiny majority.’
In a series of heavyweight warnings yesterday, three former prime ministers spoke out against the risks of pursuing a no-deal Brexit.
Sir John, a high-profile critic of Mr Johnson, said: ‘The new PM must choose whether to be the spokesman for an ultra-Brexit faction, or the servant of the nation he leads.’
Mr Blair said Mr Johnson had ‘boxed himself in to a No Deal Brexit’, while Mr Brown warned of the danger of inflicting ‘peacetime self-inflicted wounds’.
MPs have been handed a six-week break from Parliament over the summer. The Commons will rise on Thursday night and will not sit again until Tuesday, September 3. A further three-week break is pencilled in for the party conference season.
The recess plans mean the new Tory leader will not face MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions for almost two months.
Could Hunt be sacked if he fails to get a big enough share of vote?
Jeremy Hunt is set to be sacked as foreign secretary tomorrow unless he manages to run Boris Johnson close in the Tory leadership contest.
Allies of Mr Johnson said last night that he would have a ‘free hand’ to demote his rival provided he secures at least 60 per cent of the vote when the result of the contest is revealed today.
Mr Hunt has indicated he wants to stay on as foreign secretary if his leadership bid fails. He is also said to have indicated he would accept an alternative top job, such as chancellor or deputy prime minister.
But allies of Mr Johnson are urging him to demote Mr Hunt following a fractious campaign in which he called his rival a ‘coward’.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured on Monday) is set to be sacked as foreign secretary tomorrow unless he manages to run Boris Johnson close in the Tory leadership contest
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading supporter of Mr Johnson, yesterday said Mr Hunt had no right to expect a top job and should stop ‘grandstanding and saying, ‘If I’m not Foreign Secretary I won’t be anything’.
The move came as Mr Johnson and his closest allies spent the day debating the make-up of his first Cabinet.
He is concerned that the reshuffle risks alienating dozens of his backers who have inflated expectations of their prospects.
He has told friends: ‘It is going to be very difficult to satisfy everyone.’
Another ally said the precise composition of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet would depend on his margin of victory. ‘The first thing is to win, the second is the scale of the victory,’ the source said.
‘If he gets 60 per cent of the vote then he has a free hand. If the lead is 10 points then he is going to be more constrained.’
Sources said the former Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris is being considered for the key position of chief whip, although current whips Chris Pincher and Mark Spencer are also said to be in the running.
Liz Truss, Matt Hancock and Sajid Javid are locked in a three-way battle to become Mr Johnson’s Chancellor.
And Mr Johnson is said to be agonising over what, if anything, to offer former defence secretary Gavin Williamson.