Tory leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid begin campaign to replace Theresa May
11th December 2018

They set out their stalls in the pro-Tory Spectator magazine as Tory rebels claimed they were on the brink of reaching the 48 letters needed to trigger a no confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership of the party.

Last night a source told The Sun that veteran Eurosceptic Owen Paterson had become the second ex-Cabinet minister and the most senior Tory yet to call for Mrs May to quit as he submitted a letter of no confidence.

At least four more letters calling for the PM to go have been sent in this week – taking the rebels to just a handful short of triggering a no confidence vote.

It sparked frenized claims that the secret ballot of Tory MPs on her premiership could be triggered by the end of the week.

But sources close to Sir Graham Brady, who collects the letters in his role as chairman of the 1922 Tory committee, denied the 48 threshold had been reached.

Friends of Graham Brady last night insisted he had no plans to make a statement about a confidence vote on PM’s leadership but that could change the minute he receives the 48th letter.

If the coup is successful the Tory party could be searching for a new leader as early as next week.

In an interview to be published Wednesday, Mr Javid boasted about his rise from the son of a bus driver to vice-president of a major bank aged 25 and then Home Secretary aged 48 before declaring the party needed to reflect this “bigger picture” of social mobility.

He said: “I want Britain to be that kind of opportunity society where the government is your friend, working with you, enabling. Rather than holding you back, intentionally or not.”

Meanwhile Mr Johnson signalled he was shaping up for a leadership contest by revealing in the same magazine that he had lost 12 pounds in just a fortnight.

He wrote in this week’s edition: “My sight is keener, the days seem longer and more full of interest.”

“If things go on like this, I could be less than 15 stone by Christmas — for the first time since university — and I hope at that great global festivity to toast the moment in the next few weeks when the British governing class finally summons the willpower to do the necessary, to ditch this deal, to bin the backstop and to make the change that will launch us on a nimbler, lither and more dynamic future.

"If I can do it, so can we all.”

He also took a clear swipe at his sworn enemy Michael Gove over reports he turned against a no deal Brexit after being warned of a shortage of Mars Bars.

Mr Johnson wrote: “Are we going to abandon a thousand years of national self-rule, and adopt foreign laws — over which we have no control — because we cannot be fagged to make whatever preparations are necessary for the microscopic risk of us running out of Mars Bars?

“There may have been times in the last century when the government of Britain has looked more pathetic, but I can’t think what they are.”

Last night Mrs May brushed aside speculation of an impending vote of no confidence.

Asked whether she had been told the threshold of 48 letters had been reached, the PM replied: “No, I have been here in Europe dealing with the issue I have promised Parliament I would be dealing with.”

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