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DAN HODGES: A coup to oust Rishi and bring back Boris could still be months away. But all bets are that it WILL happen

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The only remaining question is when they will choose to strike. Most MPs think the challenge will come soon after the local elections in May. A few believe it could be in the autumn, around the time of the next Tory Party conference.

But there is no longer any doubt that at some point this year, Rishi Sunak will face an organised attempt to oust him and reinstall Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

‘Boris definitely wants it,’ an ally of the former PM told me. ‘He thinks he has unfinished business. His people are starting to get properly organised. It’s not just chatter any more.’

The Bring Back Boris plot has three main components.

Rivals? There is no longer any doubt that at some point this year, Rishi Sunak will face an organised attempt to oust him and reinstall Boris Johnson as Prime Minister

Rivals? There is no longer any doubt that at some point this year, Rishi Sunak will face an organised attempt to oust him and reinstall Boris Johnson as Prime Minister

Boris's friends feel similarly confident about the response of the wider Tory Party membership. ¿He¿s the only person who has any mandate,¿ one claimed

Boris’s friends feel similarly confident about the response of the wider Tory Party membership. ‘He’s the only person who has any mandate,’ one claimed 

The first is to get the 50 or so letters from MPs required to force a no- confidence vote against Rishi Sunak. The second is finding enough rebels to ensure Sunak loses that vote, or is sufficiently damaged that his position becomes untenable. And finally a short, sharp leadership election in which Tory members give the formal stamp of approval for the return of their prodigal son.

Those strategising for a coup believe the first hurdle is easy to clear. ‘There were 200 MPs who stood with Boris in last June’s vote,’ one plotter told me, referring to the confidence vote in Boris when he was in No 10. He won, but was forced to step down weeks later.

He added: ‘Also, there were more than 100 MPs who were prepared to back him when Liz Truss stood down. Getting the 50 letters to trigger a contest will be easy.’

Boris’s friends feel similarly confident about the response of the wider Tory Party membership. ‘He’s the only person who has any mandate,’ one claimed. ‘He got it from the voters in the 2019 General Election and from the party membership. He’s still massively popular among the grassroots. There won’t be any problem in getting the members to endorse him again.’

The one perceived difficulty – from the perspective of the plotters – is identifying enough MPs to engage in one final act of political regicide, especially following the anarchic ‘Year of Three Prime Ministers’.

But again, they feel momentum is in their favour. ‘Before Christmas, I’d have put the chances of getting enough support to force Rishi out at around 20 per cent,’ a Boris supporter told me. ‘Now, I’d say it’s 40 per cent.

‘The problem has been that quite a few colleagues were saying, “What’s the point? The Tories are finished anyway.” But now the mood is becoming, “What have we got to lose? We might as well take one last gamble with the Big Fella.” ’

Boris Johnson pictured reading out a statement outside 10 Downing Street, formally resigning as Conservative Party leader

Rishi Sunak addresses the nation in Downing Street after King Charles III appointed him as Britain's 57th Prime Minister

Those close to Sunak attempt to rubbish such talk. They claim Boris does not actually want to mount a comeback. And that his wife also strongly opposes any return to Downing Street

I’m told that at least seven senior former Cabinet Ministers are actively organising for Sunak’s removal. And they cover several broad factions of the parliamentary party. At the spearhead are the Boris ‘true believers’. They feel their man was himself the victim of a gross act of treachery – cunningly masterminded by Sunak and his supporters – and that he needs to be avenged.

‘With Rishi in No 10, we are heading into the long, cold and brutal wasteland of thankless opposition,’ leading Johnson cheerleader Nadine Dorries wrote in The Mail on Sunday two weeks ago. These views are dismissed as ‘mad’ by Sunak’s supporters, but her analysis of her party’s electoral prospects is widely shared on the Tory benches.

A second group are allies of Liz Truss. They freely acknowledge she made mistakes and was the primary architect of her downfall as PM. But they also believe Sunak and his team were mobilising against her from the moment she secured the leadership.

‘Rishi had been planning to take over for at least two years – or maybe even longer,’ one Truss ally claimed. ‘He just couldn’t accept it when Liz beat him. There were people in his team who were convinced that it would be better to be in opposition than let Truss run things.’

Other Truss loyalists point the finger directly at Sunak himself. ‘Rishi was actively involved,’ one insisted. ‘He was there with the plotters, going through spread sheets of supporters.’

¿Rishi had been planning to take over for at least two years ¿ or maybe even longer,¿ one Truss ally claimed. ¿He just couldn¿t accept it when Liz beat him'

‘Rishi had been planning to take over for at least two years – or maybe even longer,’ one Truss ally claimed. ‘He just couldn’t accept it when Liz beat him’

Then there is the third faction – ‘the survivalists’.

They comprise the growing number of Tory Ministers and backbenchers who believe they have no other option but to try to save as many seats as possible in the face of an impending electoral tsunami. And they are convinced their present leader lacks the requisite political skills to deliver any form of salvation.

‘I just can’t ignore reality,’ said one former Minister who has long been sceptical of talk of a Boris return. ‘Rishi leaves my constituents feeling cold. But they still love Boris. I just think it’s becoming inevitable that he’s going to come back. I’m certain that by the end of the year, Rishi will be gone and Boris will be PM again.’

Those close to Sunak attempt to rubbish such talk. They claim Boris does not actually want to mount a comeback. And that his wife also strongly opposes any return to Downing Street.

 Boris’s people are getting organised – it’s not just chatter any longer

‘There are a small number of people – the usual suspects – who are agitating,’ one told me wearily, ‘but Boris is nowhere near being on board.’

Yet despite No 10’s denials, there is a growing awareness in Downing Street that their ‘Boris Problem’ is not going away. That’s why tentative thought has been given to the idea of offering him a role as Sunak’s official Ukraine Envoy. But nothing concrete has been offered.

And even if it was, it may not be accepted. Because Boris is only too aware that events are slowly but surely moving in his favour.

The past seven days have seen another series of troubles for Sunak and his team. The Levelling Up announcement – viewed as vital for the Tory revival in Red Wall seats – misfired.

No sooner was it revealed the PM had flown to Blackpool by RAF jet, rather than take the train, than it became clear a significant chunk of the Levelling Up investment was being earmarked for affluent areas of the South and South East.

This strategy was immediately lambasted by West Midlands Tory Mayor Andy Street as ‘just another example of why Whitehall’s bidding and begging-bowl culture is broken’.

Then, on a walkabout to promote the plan, the Prime Minister rejected a call for tax cuts by proclaiming: ‘You’re not idiots, you know what’s happened.’ And to cap off his troublesome week, he found himself whacked with another fixed penalty notice for failing to wear a seatbelt.

Many Tory backbenchers dread a return to the chaos of 2022. But they aren’t going to sit back and let these unforced errors continue for much longer.

It may be a few weeks before things come to a head. It may take several months. But the plot against Rishi Sunak is already under way.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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