A no confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s leadership was confirmed this morning by senior backbencher Sir Graham Brady.
He confirmed that at least 54 Tory MPs have handed in letters of no confidence in the prime minister. Between 6pm and 8pm tonight, the entire parliamentary party will vote on Johnson’s future in No.10.
Here’s everything you need to know about this parliamentary process and why it could be pivotal for Johnson.
How is a no confidence vote triggered?
To mount a leadership challenge, 15% of Conservative MPs have to submit a letter.
Based on the current size of the party in the Commons, this means at least 54 Tory MPs have got out their pens.
The number of letters could be higher than the number known in public, as there is no obligation for MPs to reveal if and when they have handed one in.
The letters are secretly sent to Sir Graham Brady. The veteran Tory MP leads the body of all backbench Conservative MPs known as the 1922 committee.
Only Brady knows how many letters he has received.
In 2018, when MPs mobilised to oust Theresa May, Brady said he did not even tell his wife how many he had locked in his safe.
In a statement, Brady explained that the vote will go ahead tonight between 6pm and 8pm.
He said: “The votes will be counted immediately afterwards. An announcement will be made at a time to be advised. Arrangements for the announcement will be released later today.”
All 360 Tory MPs will vote in the secret ballot and if more than 50% vote against Johnson he would be removed as leader.
But, if the rebels fail to reach that threshold Johnson would get to keep his job.
What happens if he survives the vote?
If Johnson wins the no confidence vote, party rules mean another could not be held for another year.
This happened in December 2018 when Tory MPs botched an attempt to get rid of May. She ultimately managed to cling on to the leadership until June 2019.
Many Westminster insiders believe the prime minister will survive the vote, but even if that is the case, Johnson’s authority would be hugely damaged.
However, it would still inoculate him against another formal challenge immediately after the two by-elections on June 23, which the Conservatives could very well lose.
What happens if he loses the vote?
If Johnson loses the no confidence vote then a leadership contest is triggered.
He is not allowed to stand for re-election as leader but would likely stay in post until his successor is chosen.
How does the leadership election work
Conservative Party leadership elections have two parts.
The first stage sees Tory MPs vote in a series of rounds, whittling the list of candidates down to a final two. In the 2019 leadership race this took roughly two weeks.
The second stage sees the final two candidates go to a vote of Tory members. In 2019, when Johnson took on Jeremy Hunt, this took around a month.
Leadership candidates are already seen to be on manoeuvres in Westminster in the expectation of a contest.
If Tory MPs do successfully move against Johnson soon, it would mean a new prime minister would be in place well in time for the party’s annual conference in October.
The new leader would have until January 2025 before they had to call a general election.