Boris Johnson warned of threat of leadership challenge in new year

Boris Johnson has been warned he faces the real prospect of a leadership challenge in the new year if he fails to urgently improve his performance as prime minister.

A senior backbencher told The Independent that disgruntled Tory MPs are currently holding their fire in the hope that the prime minister can shake off his recent run of disastrous miscalculations and political blunders.

But the MP warned that unless matters improve by Christmas, Conservatives – especially those with narrow majorities – will turn their focus to ensuring that the right leader is in place in time to give them the best chance of holding onto their seats in a general election expected in 2023.

Tory high command was on Wednesday doing its best to damp down speculation of as many as a dozen MPs writing letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, with whips insisting they were not aware of any issues of that kind.

And Conservative MPs made a display of support for Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, cheering his arrival at the despatch box, where he was flanked by chancellor Rishi Sunak in a public show of unity between the two men following reports of a rift between No 10 and the Treasury. Alongside Mr Sunak was foreign secretary Liz Truss, also suspected by some of being on manoeuvres for a possible future leadership contest.

But Mr Johnson was again forced onto the back foot, failing to deny Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s charge that he has breached his manifesto pledge that no one in England will have to sell their home to pay for care with a new policy that protects property only so long as a pensioner or their spouse is living in it.

In an uncomfortable moment for Tory MPs, Sir Keir repeated the question of a TV reporter after Mr Johnson’s shambolic speech to the CBI: “Is everything OK, prime minister?”

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