Boris Johnson has been plunged into a fresh leadership crisis after two catastrophic by-election results.
The PM said he would ‘listen’ after seismic results in Tiverton and Wakefield, but tried to play down the huge blows as a difficult ‘patch’ for the government.
However, Mr Johnson – who is more than 4,000 miles away on a visit to Rwanda – is facing a fresh threat to his position after Tory chair Oliver Dowden quit.
The outgoing minister delivered what appeared to be a coded attack on the PM, saying the party cannot continue with ‘business as usual’.
So just how much danger is Mr Johnson in, and how likely is the crisis to end his premiership?
Boris Johnson – who is on a visit to Rwanda with wife Carrie (pictured last night) – has been plunged into a fresh leadership crisis after two catastrophic by-election results
The chair of the Tory 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, has suggested there will not be another confidence vote until at least next June
Haven’t we just had a Tory confidence vote?
Yes. After 15 per cent of Conservative MPs wrote to backbench 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, he triggered a vote earlier this month.
The PM won, but 148 of his 359 MPs backed kicking him out in the secret ballot.
Mr Johnson and his allies hailed that as a clear victory and urged the party to unite behind him.
Many observers believed the rebels had triggered the ballot too early, and if they had waited for the results of these crunch by-elections the premier would have lost.
Can they just call another vote?
In theory, party rules mean that because Mr Johnson secured 50 per cent of the vote he cannot be challenged again for 12 months.
But notably Theresa May also won a confidence battle, and was later threatened with a rule change to enable her to face another vote – forcing her to resign.
The 1922 committee has made clear this time that changing the rules would be a last resort.
There are concerns that allowing repeated votes would merely result in perpetual crisis.
Is there any other way for the leader to be evicted?
Mr Johnson has defiantly insisted he will not entertain the ‘crazy’ idea of resigning.
And – barring the Opposition winning a vote of no confidence in the House – there is no formal mechanism to get rid of him before the next general election.
However, a withdrawal of support by the Cabinet would make his position untenable.
Tory chair Oliver Dowden’s decision to quit and refuse to back Mr Johnson inflicts a blow – but to become terminal it would take more big figures to walk out and openly call for Mr Johnson to go.
In a letter hours after seismic results in Tiverton and Wakefield, Oliver Dowden said he shared the ‘distress’ of activists about the run of bad results
The PM survived the confidence vote at the start of this month (pictured, result being announced)
What happens if the leader is ousted?
The leader is sacked if they lose a Tory confidence vote, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand. Resignation would also trigger a contest.
However, the outgoing chief typically stays on as Prime Minister until a replacement is chosen.
Are there any other big moments coming up that could fuel the revolt?
The cross-party Privileges Committee is about to kick off an inquiry into whether Mr Johnson misled the House over Partygate.
It is expected to report in the Autumn, when the PM will also have to run the gauntlet of Tory conference.
But perhaps the biggest looming threat to Mr Johnson is the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation forecast to soar over 11 per cent in October when energy bills rise again.