Boris Johnson is “in a buoyant mood” and “will fight on”, his parliamentary private secretary has told Sky News, despite some of the prime minister’s most loyal cabinet ministers joining calls for him to quit.
Speaking to Sky News’ chief political correspondent Jon Craig, James Duddridge said he expects the prime minister to “make senior cabinet appointments this evening”.
Mr Duddridge, also a foreign office minister, adding that he is “looking forward to hearing what the PM and his fantastic chancellor Nadhim Zahawi have to say tomorrow”.
Meanwhile, a senior Number 10 source has told Sky News that Mr Johnson is “absolutely defiant” and “does not intend to resign” despite some of his most loyal cabinet ministers joining calls for him to quit.
Priti Patel was among the cabinet ministers who have told Mr Johnson he should listen to the overwhelming view of the Conservative Party and resign, Sky News understands.
The home secretary, one of the prime minister’s most loyal supporters, is believed to have spoken to the prime minister and told him that she does not believe he can carry on in his position, amid an avalanche of ministerial resignations and growing calls for him to quit.
Ms Patel is believed to have been joined by the new chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in calling for Mr Johnson to resign.
A source close to Mr Zahawi told Sky News that the chancellor will not be resigning and that he wants to focus on lowering the tax burden and help with easing the burden of the cost of living crisis.
The delegation of senior politicians, which also included policing minister Kit Malthouse, new Education Secretary Michelle Donelan and Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris are said to have told the PM in Number 10 that his position is untenable.
Also present was chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, who headed to Downing Street following this afternoon’s meeting of the group of Conservative backbench MPs.
Meanwhile, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis were also understood to be supporting the delegation, but were not in London to join their cabinet colleagues.
Mr Kwarteng has already pulled out of a planned media round on Thursday morning amid the crisis over Mr Johnson’s leadership.
Sky News’ deputy political editor Sam Coates understands the group delivered a “final ultimatum” to Mr Johnson, saying “you go or we do”.
But leaving Whitehall, Jacob Rees-Mogg said “no” the PM does not plan to resign and that Mr Johnson has his “full support”.
Asked if she is still supporting the PM, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries replied: “Definitely”.
Mr Johnson was expected to return to Downing Street after giving evidence to the Liaison Committee over in the House of Commons where he insisted to its members that he will stay in power as it is not “responsible just to walk away”.
But resignations from his government are mounting and several MPs have been publicly tweeting their calls for his departure.
One of the latest to join them is Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely, who said “important debates and important issues… are being drowned out by the incessant noise from Downing Street”.
Exiting Downing Street, Policing minister Mr Malthouse said it had been “a difficult day”.
PM facing avalanche of resignations
Meanwhile, the executive of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee has been meeting to discuss whether to change the rules to allow a fresh confidence vote in the prime minister to take place.
The influential group decided it would hold elections for a new executive on Monday, and they could decide on any rule change the very same night.
Resignations from Mr Johnson’s government began on Tuesday after Downing Street admitted he had known about allegations of inappropriate behaviour by disgraced MP Chris Pincher in 2019 before hiring him as deputy chief whip in February.
Ministers had been sent out to defend Mr Johnson and say he did not know about any “specific” allegations.
Mr Pincher resigned from the role last week after further allegations that he groped two men at a private club in London, and he was later suspended from the Conservative Party.
Former senior civil servant Lord McDonald revealed on Tuesday that the PM had been told in person of the 2019 allegations, despite what Downing Street was telling the press.
Less than 12 hours later, Mr Javid and Mr Sunak quit, prompting a flurry of more junior ministers saying they could no longer support Mr Johnson.
‘Sinking ships are fleeing the rat’
Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked the PM over his handling of the scandal, reading out the accusations levelled at Mr Pincher as a “reminder to all those propping up this prime minister just how serious the situation is”.
In fiery exchanges at PMQs, the Labour leader said the list of resignations had left him with a “z list cast of nodding dogs” on his frontbench, and that “sinking ships [are] fleeing the rat”.
But Mr Johnson insisted: “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when he has been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going, and that’s what I am going to do.”
Meanwhile, facing his second probe of the day in front of the powerful Liaison Committee, Mr Johnson said he will “of course” still be prime minister tomorrow despite facing an avalanche of resignations from members of his government.
Mr Johnson insisted both the truth and accuracy of language are “very important” to him during a line of questioning by Conservative chairman of the Justice Committee Sir Bob Neill.
Johnson will ‘of course’ be PM tomorrow
Meanwhile, William Wragg, a Tory MP who described the PM’s position as “untenable” in January, asked Mr Johnson: “At which point does it become impossible for the Queen’s government to be continued?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I really think you are underestimating the talent, energy and sheer ambition of Members of Parliament, and they want to get things done.”
He added that governments cannot solve problems by “threatening to call elections”.