Boris Johnson is urging Tory MPs to unite as a confidence vote is held on Monday night. In a letter to all Conservative MPs he said it was the opportunity to draw a line under issues and focus on voters.
Pointing out his previous election success and the completion of Brexit, he told them they could achieve much if they worked together. And he pointed out how the UK had tackled Covid including the development of the first approved vaccine and the speedy roll-out of vaccinations.
He was writing ahead of a vote of confidence in his leadership of the Conservative Party which comes following months of speculation. It was finally triggered on Monday after at least 54 MPs – 15 per cent of Tory MPs – wrote to the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady, calling for the vote.
To remain leader of the party Mr Johnson needs to win the backing of more than 50 per cent of all Conservative MPs. That is 180 votes. If successful he will be safe from another challenge for 12 months.
However if he loses, there will be a leadership contest held. Mr Johnson would not be allowed to stand.
It is understood the Prime Minister will speak directly to MPs at 4pm ahead of the secret vote which will take place between 6-8pm tonight. But ahead of that plea he penned the letter putting forward his case.
He wrote: “Tonight we have the chance to end weeks of media speculation and take this country forward, immediately, as one united party. Tonight is the moment to draw a line under the issues our opponents want us to talk about — and to focus instead on what really matters: the needs of the voters who sent us to Westminster.
“I am asking you for your support tonight because I know how much we can achieve together. Together, we won the biggest mandate for the Conservative Party in 40 years. As we promised, we resolved the long Brexit crisis and created a new and friendly relationship with the European Union.
“When the UK was hit by the worst global pandemic for a century, we showed the drive and grip to deliver the first approved vaccine anywhere in the world followed by the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe. It was because we took tough but responsible decisions during the pandemic that we were able to reopen our economy speedily — with the result that we now have the lowest unemployment since 1974.
“And we took the tough decision to become the first European country to help the Ukrainians to protect themselves against Russian aggression; and I am proud of the leadership the UK has shown. From tackling social care to striking an economic and migration partnership with Rwanda, we have shown time and again that we can be trusted to deliver bold and innovative solutions to difficult and longstanding problems.
“I say all this not because I want to take satisfaction in past achievements, but because now is the time to concentrate every ounce of that same energy and drive on the priorities of the British people. As the whole world struggles with the economic impact of (Vladimir) Putin’s aggression, we have already taken decisive action — just as we took decisive action during Covid — to shield the public from the energy price spike.
“We are helping eight million of the most vulnerable households with £1,200 of support, amid many other measures. We can do this because we have the fiscal firepower to help, because of the tough — and contested — decisions we took during Covid. We are finding the cash because we are compassionate Conservatives, and because it is the right thing to do.
“But we also know that you cannot just spend your way out of inflation, and you cannot tax your way into growth. Over the next few weeks Rishi (Sunak) and I will be setting out all the ways in which we will be using Conservative principles to take advantage of our new freedoms, cut costs, and drive growth.
“We will cut the costs of government. We will cut the costs of business. And we will cut the costs of families up and down the country.
“From Transport to Childcare to Energy to Housing — we will drive reform and find ways of reducing each major item of household expenditure. And we will of course devote all our energy to reducing the biggest single household outgoing of all — the tax bill. It must come down, and it will, because that is the best way to deliver the growth we need.
“By throwing ourselves into this project we will deliver above all on what we were elected to do in 2019 — uniting and levelling up, with high wage high skill jobs across the whole country. That means whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your background, we will give you the opportunity to make the most of your talents.
“By levelling up, by unleashing the potential of every corner of the United Kingdom with our continuing investments in infrastructure, skills and technology, we want to make the UK the most prosperous economy in Europe. That is our vision: of a strong and prosperous United Kingdom, with our beloved Union protected and supported, projecting the best of British values around the world.
“We can do it, but it will need all our collective resolve to help our country through what will be difficult months ahead. I do not believe our voters will lightly forgive us if — just when they need us most to be focusing on them — we appear once again to be focusing on Westminster politics. I am afraid the only beneficiaries will be our opponents.
“I know that over recent months I have come under a great deal of fire, and I know that experience has been painful for the whole party. Some of that criticism has perhaps been fair, some less so. Where there have been valid points, I have listened and learned and made significant changes.
“And I will of course continue to listen and learn from colleagues about the improvements you wish to see. But I cannot stress too much that we have a golden chance to put this behind us now.
“With your support, I believe that tonight we have a great prize within our grasp. We can put an end to the media’s favourite obsession. We can get on with the job without the noises off.
“And I am absolutely confident that if we can unite in the days ahead then in due course we will win again, repay the trust of the 14 million who voted for us, and continue to serve the country we love.”
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