How Boris and his whips bought beleaguered PM more time in the face of Pork Pie ...

How Boris and his whips bought beleaguered PM more time in the face of Pork Pie ...
How Boris and his whips bought beleaguered PM more time in the face of Pork Pie ...

The defection of Tory MP Christian Wakeford was designed to finish Boris Johnson off.

Cruelly timed just minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions, the Tory turncoat hoped his betrayal would drive his fellow malcontents among the 2019 intake of MPs to dispatch a flood of no confidence letters – triggering a leadership contest.

Excitable members of the so-called ‘Pork Pie Plot’ of rebel Red Wall MPs had briefed sympathetic journalists that the PM would be facing a vote of no confidence by early afternoon – and 5pm at the latest.

In the end, it did not happen.

Boris Johnson

 Boris Johnson (left) was today told to quit over Partygate by senior Tory David Davis at a brutal PMQs today just minutes after an MP dramatically defected to Labour

Mr Wakeford was on the Labour benches for PMQS today wearing a union flag face mask

Mr Wakeford was on the Labour benches for PMQS today wearing a union flag face mask

Mr Wakeford was welcomed by his new party leader Sir Keir Starmer in his parliamentary office tonight

Mr Wakeford was welcomed by his new party leader Sir Keir Starmer in his parliamentary office tonight

Instead, by last night, the defection appeared to have had the opposite effect. Tory MPs said that wavering colleagues who had planned to send no confidence letters to the 1922 committee of backbench MPs now looked set to delay – at least until the publication next week of a report into the ‘Partygate’ controversy by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray. And with the momentum lost, the ‘pork pie putsch’ appeared to crumble to dust as quickly as it had materialised.

It had begun on Tuesday when around 20 of the plotters gathered in the Commons office of MP Alicia Kearns – whose Melton Mowbray constituency gave the plot its moniker – to discuss tactics for defenestrating their leader.

A secret ballot revealed that around half had already submitted letters of no confidence to Tory shop steward Sir Graham Brady.

The plotters, who included Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, West Dorset MP Chris Loder and Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, were said to have concluded that the Partygate row was ‘terminal’ for the PM and discussed sending in their letters en masse to force a contest.

But news of the plot quickly reached the ears of Tory whips who have been on red alert for signs of disloyalty.

Wavering MPs were summoned for meetings with senior party figures, with some even ushered in to see the PM.

No 10 yesterday denied claims that the PM was in tears as he pleaded with them not to finish him off. But sources acknowledged he was in listening mode, asking potential rebels to tell him ‘what I can do’ to win them over.

Mr Johnson pictured with 2019 intake MPs after his huge election victory. Ringed are some of the alleged Pork Pie plotters, with Mr Wakeford second from left

Mr Johnson pictured with 2019 intake MPs after his huge election victory. Ringed are some of the alleged Pork Pie plotters, with Mr Wakeford second from left

Dehenna Davison with rescued puppy 'Carter' pictured next to Carrie Johnson with dog Dilyn and Rishi Sunak, canvasing in Bishop Auckland. She is thought to be one of the ringleaders

Dehenna Davison with rescued puppy 'Carter' pictured next to Carrie Johnson with dog Dilyn and Rishi Sunak, canvasing in Bishop Auckland. She is thought to be one of the ringleaders

At the same time, individual plotters were singled out for special treatment, with chief whip Mark Spencer making doorstep visits. Mr Wakeford, a drinking pal of Miss Davison, was one of several MPs said to have been warned by whips that boundary changes to their constituencies could see them squeezed out at the next election unless they backed down.

One ally of Mr Wakeford said the whips had overplayed their hand – and claimed the threat was the final straw in his decision to defect to Labour.

The move itself made for dramatic political theatre. Mr Wakeford was hissed and booed by Tory MPs as he entered the Commons chamber to take his place among his new Labour colleagues.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries seethed that Mr Wakeford had yet to realise that the Union Jack face mask he was wearing ‘is not welcome on that side of the House’. Sir Keir Starmer made the most of it, boasting that the first Tory-to-Labour defection for 15 years showed he was ‘incapable of offering the leadership and Government this country deserves’.

But the defection had a galvanising effect on the Tory benches.

Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria (pictured together after he won Bury South in 2019)

Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria (pictured together after he won Bury South in 2019)

But Labour MPs today rallied around Mr Wakeford as he defended his foul-mouthed rant about the party in a Tory WhatsApp group last year.

But Labour MPs today rallied around Mr Wakeford as he defended his foul-mouthed rant about the party in a Tory WhatsApp group last year.

Speaking afterwards, one Cabinet minister said: ‘In an odd way things have suddenly got better with Wakeford going. People forget how tribal politics is. When someone swaps to the other tribe you feel under attack and the internal attacks become secondary.

‘If they really thought it was going to finish the PM off it just shows how delusional some of them are.’ The plot appeared to have taken off in part because of a downbeat interview

read more from dailymail.....

PREV Thursday 19 May 2022 07:10 PM Millions of Americans are at risk of blackouts this summer as heat and drought ... trends now
NEXT Melbourne murder investigation: Woman found dead at Croydon North home