Jacob Rees-Mogg has offered up an unusual defence of Boris Johnson, comparing him to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as the prime minister gears up to face a vote of no confidence.
On Monday morning, it was announced that the 15% threshold had been reached for Tory MPs to hold a vote on the future of the prime minister.
That means at least 15% of Tory MPs feel strongly enough that Johnson is the wrong leader for the party and have formally written to the chairman of the 1922 Committee and called for him to resign.
Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, said the vote was a "routine of politics".
He told Sky News: "Our leaders are not like Kim Jong-un, they don't have their party supporting them fully at all times so I don't think getting to the 15% bar is particularly damaging or surprising, I think it's a relatively low bar and easy to get to."
He added there were other PMs who had survived a vote of no confidence: "I wouldn’t focus on a narrow particular rule, I would just look at the generality of politics that there are always people who want the top job and a lot of people who’ve been public in recent days clearly want the top job for themselves and they therefore stir things up a bit,” he said.
“And we will see – I hope the prime minister will win the vote later on today and then calm everything down.”
Rees-Mogg – an ardent Johnson supporter – also stated that victory in the secret ballot by as little as a solitary vote would be a sufficient mandate for his leader to continue leading the party.
“One is enough, it’s no good saying that the rules of the party say something and then behind it unofficially, there is some other rule that nobody knows and is invented for the purpose," he said.
Rees-Mogg's position is at odds with his comments following a no-confidence vote in Theresa May four years ago.
Speaking after the then-PM won with a majority of 83 MPs, Rees-Mogg called for her "to go and see the Queen and urgently resign" because she had lost the support of backbench MPs.
Tim Montgomerie, founder of the ConservativeHome website which is seen as a bellwether of Tory membership opinion, dismissed the support of Rees-Mogg as unrepresentative of the party.
He said: "People around Boris like Nadine [Dorries] are willing to trash any other Conservative who gets in their way. Jacob Rees-Mogg describing the Scottish Tory leader as a 'lightweight' is another example. They are Team Boris. They aren’t Team Tory."
As would be expected, many cabinet ministers have also given their public backing to the prime minister – including those who could seek to replace him if he is forced out.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The prime minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him.
“He has delivered on COVID recovery and supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. He has apologised for mistakes made. We must now focus on economic growth.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said “the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs”.
“I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs."
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said: “The PM has got the big calls right – securing life-saving vaccines, firing up our economy and standing up to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.
“We need to back him, unite and focus on delivering the people’s priorities.”
Speaking shortly after Brady made his announcement, health secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News: “If there is (a vote) the prime minister will stand and fight his corner with a very, very strong case.”
Meanwhile, a No 10 spokeswoman said: “Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities.
“The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters, there is no more formidable political force.”
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