Senior members of the powerful 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers are said to have held secret talks to discuss the possibility MPs will soon demand Liz Truss is replaced as prime minister.
More than 100 MPs are reportedly ready to submit letters of no-confidence to Sir Graham Brady – the head of the committee which organises leadership contests – in a bid to oust the PM within days.
While a current rule means Ms Truss should be safe from a confidence vote for 12 month, Tory backbenchers have been talking about how the “grace period” rule might be changed in bid to force Ms Truss out.
Senior figures on the 18-member 1922 Committee held talks late on Friday evening to discuss the PM’s future, according to The Times.
Despite an expected flurry of letters – and some Tory MPs prediction that Ms Truss could be gone “within days” – current rules could prevent a speedy removal.
Around two thirds of the party’s nearly 360 MPs, roughly 240, would have to make clear they wanted the grace period rule changed before the committee would do so, a person familiar with its deliberations told Bloomberg.
1922 Committee boss Sir Graham is understood to be returning from holiday early today, and will count the number of letters of no-confidence already posted.
It is thought Sir Graham could discuss the seriousness of the PM’s position with her if a flood of letters are submitted this week.
Ms Truss is set to meet her cabinet on Monday meeting in a bid to unite them behind her new economic plan, after her new chancellor Jeremy Hunt makes a statement reversing almost all of her original tax-cutting strategy.
Following Mr Hunt’s emergency statement around 11am, the chancellor will address the Commons at 3.30pm ahead of the publication of his full, medium-term fiscal plan on 31 October.
The beleaguered PM will also meet with moderate Tories in the ‘One Nation’ group this evening in a bid to save her premiership, with many MPs discuss how quickly they can force her removal.
Crispin Blunt, Andrew Bridgen and Jamie Wallis all called on the PM to quit on Sunday, while other senior figures offered scathing criticism and predicted she may face.
Mr Blunt was the first MP to demand her exit on Sunday, telling Channel 4’s Andrew Neil Show on Sunday: “I think the game is up and it’s now a question as to how the succession is managed.”
Ex-transport secretary Grant Shapps – who has reportedly been floated as a potential successor to the PM – wrote in The Times that the party needed a “competent” leader.
Although he did not explicitly call for her to go, Mr Shapps said: “We as a party have two years to get ourselves out of this hole, and it’s a deep hole when it comes to public confidence … MPs are overwhelmingly predisposed to supporting a competent leader.”
Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind told The Independent it was “in the national interest” for MPs to come forward and demand her resignation.
One senior Tory MP told The Independent: “She can’t lead us into the next election, everyone knows that, it is just whether she goes in the short term or the long term”.
Another said many of the 2019 intake, who make up almost one-third of Tory MPs “are not there yet – they are terrified, they are like rabbits in the headlights”.
Sir Roger Gale rejected the idea Ms Truss could be replaced this week – saying the other issue preventing a speedy change was that MPs had not yet coalesced around a replacement.
“If the prime minister decided to go, there would have to be a coronation,” he told Sky News. “And in order for that to happen you’ve got to have an agreed candidate. And at the moment I see no single agreed candidate.”
Some backbenchers have been discussing a joint Rishi Sunak-Penny Mordaunt ticket, if they can agree which one will be step forward to become PM if Ms Truss is forced to quit.
But it emerged that allies of the defence secretary Ben Wallace have been canvassing support among MPs for him to front a possible takeover.
Some MPs are keen that the party’s constitution is changed so that grassroots members no longer elect the leader when the party is in power, and only get a say when in opposition, according to The Telegraph.
Mr Hunt is now effectively running the country, according to Sir Roger – calling him “de facto” prime minister.
“The power is in No 11, not No 10. I think Jeremy Hunt is de facto prime minister at the moment,” Sir Roger told Sky News. “All the shots are being called from No 11. And I have to say I’ve very pleased they are.”