The PM trolled his critics in the wake of two by-election drubbings by making clear he wants to stay in Downing Street until the mid-2030s.
But the attacks kept coming today, with the resignation of party chair Oliver Dowden on Friday having sent the temperature soaring.
Labour insiders claimed to the Sunday Times that half-a-dozen Tory MPs are considering defecting.
One of the candidates to succeed Mr Johnson told The Mail on Sunday that they expected the PM to face a challenge ‘within weeks or even days’ following the disastrous results in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton.
More no-confidence letters are also thought to have been sent to the backbench 1922 committee, even though Mr Johnson fended off a previous challenge earlier this month and should in theory be safe for a year,
Boris Johnson (pictured in Rwanda yesterday) trolled his critics in the wake of two by-election drubbings by making clear he wants to stay in Downing Street until the mid-2030
Damian Green (left), who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warned the Government ‘needs to alter both its style and content’ and called on the Cabinet to step in. Keir Starmer (right) urged Mr Johnson to ‘bring it on’ over threats of an early general election
Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warned the Government ‘needs to alter both its style and content’ and called on the Cabinet to step in.
Former minister David Davis also lashed out at the PM’s claim the only argument of ‘substance’ for a change of direction he had heard from his critics was for the UK to return to the EU single market, arguing this is ‘plainly not true of me, or many others’.
Mr Johnson insisted the ‘endless churn’ of allegations was ‘driving people nuts’, as he pushed on with his Rwanda trip despite suggestions further ministerial resignations could follow.
He told reporters in Kigali that questions of his leadership were ‘settled’ after he won a vote of confidence earlier this month, and pledged he would not undergo any ‘psychological transformation’ in order to win over unsupportive MPs.
Asked if he would lead his party into the next election, he said: ‘Will I win? Yes.’
In a buoyant mood, the PM added: ‘At the moment I’m actively thinking about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it.’
Labour, meanwhile, challenged the Tories to call an early election, with leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Mr Johnson: ‘Bring it on.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meets with new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood (right), as the party reclaimed the West Yorkshire seat from the Conservatives in the Wakefield by-election
The Prime Minister’s pledge to carry on into the next decade will infuriate those MPs scheming to remove him from office after he lost both Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton to Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively.
If the next General Election is held, as expected, in 2024, Mr Johnson would be seeking a third term in 2028 or 2029, taking him theoretically to 2034.
In reality, most Tory MPs are wondering whether he can remain in power until the Commons summer recess at the end of July.
One of the candidates considering a run for leader if Mr Johnson is toppled told this newspaper that a contest was likely to come soon. ‘We are talking weeks or even days, not months,’ the rival said. ‘Olive’s going has turned it.’
‘Olive’ is Westminster shorthand for Oliver Dowden.
Mr Dowden resigned as Tory party co-chairman saying he was “distressed and disappointed by recent events” and telling the Prime Minister that “someone must take responsibility”. He pointed voiced ongoing loyalty to the party – but not Mr Johnson personally.
A sighting of Mr Cameron and Mr Dowden, his former deputy chief of stafftogether has fuelled concerns in No 10 that a Cameroon clique is plotting against the PM.
The clique is thought to include former Chancellor George Osborne and allies of Mr Cameron’s successor in Downing Street, Theresa May.
However. he significance of the meeting has been played down by a source close to Mr Cameron, who describes it as one of regular ‘routine’ meetings between the pair.
‘He [Cameron] had absolutely no prior knowledge of, or involvement in, Oliver Dowden’s resignation,’ says the source.
One Cabinet Minister has told colleagues that the ‘tipping point’ for Mr Johnson would come if the Commons Privileges Committee concludes that the Prime Minister misled MPs when he told the Commons that no Covid rules had been breached in No 10.
‘That would be of a different order, no PM can survive that,’ the Minister – and potential successor – said.
The committee is expected to report by the autumn.
Mr Dowden and Mr Cameron were spotted together last month at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club long associated with Tory plotting
The £2,850-a-year club in London’s Mayfair is a favourite with politicians, Tory donors and royals, although the significance of the meeting is played down by a source close to Mr Cameron
MPs and donors are starting to coalesce in earnest behind Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Foreign Affairs Commitee Chairman Tom Tugendhat.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his predecessor Jeremy Hunt are also expected to run.
Asked yesterday if he would like to serve a full second term, the PM said: ‘At the moment, I am thinking actively about the third and what could happen then. But I will review that when I get to it.’
He then clarified this would mean remaining in his job until the mid-2030s to enable him to complete his levelling-up agenda.
‘We’ve embarked on a massive project to change the constitution of the country, the way we run our legal system, the way we manage our borders, our economy,’ said Mr Johnson.
‘We also, at the same time, are embarked on a colossal project to unite and level up. And I happen to believe in that incredibly strongly.
‘It won’t be easily accomplished. And people will say it hasn’t worked, it’s not working yet, people in this constituency aren’t feeling the benefits. It’s going to take time. And I want to keep driving it forward.’
Sir Keir could also find himself being hit with a fine by Durham police for his ‘Beergate’ gathering in late April 2021 which he has said would lead to his resignation.
The Mail on Sunday has established through a Freedom of Information request that, contrary to earlier claims, the force does issue retrospective fines – and for smaller gatherings than the one attended by the Labour leader.