A senior Tory MP has called on Boris Johnson to hold a vote of no confidence in himself is the party does badly in next month’s local elections.
Tobias Ellwood, who is chair of the defence select committee, rejected the suggestion put forward by the prime minister’s supporters that the UK cannot change leaders because of the war in Ukraine.
Ellwood also said he expected Vladimir Putin to “exploit” the fact that Johnson has been fined over partygate.
He told Radio 4′s Today programme: “We’d like to see the United Kingdom as a beacon of democracy, an exemplar on the world stage.
“So for me, it’s actually a worrying turning point when we lose sight of those high standards, as ironically they’re being eroded across the world.
“I mean, back to Ukraine, something Putin will no doubt exploit – how can a lawmaker also be a law breaker? This is not a good look.”
Ellwood added: “I think the prime minister has made his intentions clear – he wants to stay – but this is bigger than the prime minister.
“It’s about the reputation of the party for which all colleagues must defend, and I believe he owes it to the parliamentary party, once the reports have concluded and the local elections have allowed the public view to be factored in, to agree to hold his own vote of confidence if those elections go badly.”
Under Conservative Party rules, a confidence vote is triggered if 15 per cent of MPs call for one – meaning 54 based on the current parliamentary make-up.
Ellwood, who announced in February that he has sent in a no confidence letter, repeated his call for Johnson to quit, despite the war in Ukraine.
“There’s not going to be a lull in the fighting, no pause just around the corner, for us to take stock of domestic matters,” he said.
“Every month, every year, European security is going to deteriorate well beyond Ukraine, and history anyway shows that we can and do replace leaders in times of crisis.
“We did in fact replace the head of the armed forces just as recently as December, as Russian troops were amassing, with an admiral with no combat experience.
“But critically, our formidable government apparatus, our well-oiled MoD machine, allows us to do just that – to replace people if that is required.
“Our approach to Ukraine would remain consistent, so I do hope that we won’t use the war as a fig leaf to dodge these tough questions that, absolutely, we must address.”
Only two Tory MPs have publicly called on the PM to resign since news of his Metropolitan Police fixed penalty notice broke on Tuesday.
Justice minister Lord Wolfson also resigned, saying the “scale, context and nature” of the lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street meant Johnson should go.
But the prime minister has received the backing of his cabinet – despite reports that he could face more fines for attending other gatherings which allegedly broke covid rules.