Tory civil war: Nadhim Zahawi made chancellor replacing Rishi Sunak – Steve Barclay replaces Sajid Javid as health secretary

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It’s daggers drawn as the Tories enter into a new battle in their ongoing civil war.

One Tory MP said of Boris Johnson: “It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in the freezing river and still, he lives.”

The resignations of Sunak and his fellow senior minister Sajid Javid have left the prime minister battling to remain in office amid questions about his handling of the row over MP Chris Pincher.

After this latest opening salvo in this new battle, Boris Johnson has appointed Nadhim Zahawi chancellor and Steve Barclay replaces Sajid Javid as health secretary. How loyal they will be will depend on what the other side offers them for their betrayal.

In his resignation letter, Sunak stated “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding: “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

The resignations coming from Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid came within minutes of each other, it was claimed they acted independently, however, that seems a bit of a stretch to believe that two ministers resigned within 8 minutes of each other with letters typed out and posted on Twitter.

Let’s not pretend they resigned on any moral ground, there are not enough morals in Westminster never mind the Tory Party for any of the self-serving kleptocrats to resign.

We can speculate if others were to follow the pair, they must have taken lessons from the treachours Labour party when the right-wing MPs resigned one after another, hour after hour, creating a media circus during the coup on Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

But what we do know is at this moment in time only two other Tory MPs have followed suit, Theo Clarke the PM’s trade envoy to Kenya (that’s right, no one has ever heard of her outside her constituency). and Solicitor General Alex Chalk has just resigned from his role as a junior minister under the attorney general.

He said it was “with great sadness” he was quitting the post but added he could not “defend the indefensible”.

“The cumulative effect of the Owen Paterson debacle, Partygate and now the handling of the former deputy chief whip’s resignation, is that public confidence in the ability of Number 10 to uphold the standards of candour expected of a British government has irretrievably broken down. I regret that I share that judgement.”

These sorts of moves are designed to test the waters, what’s the Twitter response, how is the press reporting this. That response helps leverage the makers and shakers in Westminster, it gives them the confidence to persuade others to jump or stay, depending on which side of this very Tory civil war they are on.

Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative chief whip, has compared Boris Johnson to Rasputin, the mystic who was close to Russia’s imperial family.

It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in the freezing river and still, he lives.

The Conservative MP told BBC Newsnight it was “over” for the prime minister.

“This is an abnormal prime minister – brilliantly charismatic, very funny, very amusing, big, big character, but I’m afraid he has neither the character, nor the temperament to be our prime minister.”

Trying to get rid of Johnson became a little harder after the PM won a vote of confidence in his leadership last month.

Under the current rules of the 1922 committee, which organises Tory leadership contests, another challenge can’t happen for 12 months.

However, MPs could still consider options to try to remove him.

Changing the rules.

There has been speculation the rules could be changed, so that Conservative MPs can hold another vote in Johnson’s leadership without waiting 12 months.

When asked about it, Sir Graham Brady MP, the chairman the 1922 Committee, said “technically, it’s possible”.

A vote is expected next week to re-elect members of the 1922 and some Tory backbenchers are expected to run on the basis that they would change the rules.

The morning will give us a better view of the battlefield, if there is a stream of ministers resigning it would be extremely difficult for Johnson to remain as Prime minister. If the flow is stopped at these three, no matter how much of a hit to Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid’s resignations will be for nothing, if others don’t follow their lead.

Of course, if Boris Johnson does go that will open up a Tory leadership contest. The irony is that Keir Starmer has directed all his shots at Boris Johnson, blaming him for every wrong since adam ate the apple, however, the fact is, Boris Johnson has been Labour’s only virtue, with a new Tory leader Starmer will have lost his only weapon.

The morning will give us a better view of the battlefield, if there is a stream of ministers resigning it would be extremely difficult for Johnson to remain as Prime minister. If the flow is stopped, no matter how much of a hit to Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid’s resignations will have been for nothing, if others don’t follow their lead.

Of course, if Boris Johnson does go that will open up a Tory leadership contest. The irony is that Keir Starmer has directed all his shots at Boris Johnson, not the Tories and their policies, blaming him specifically for every wrong since adam ate the apple, however, the fact is, Boris Johnson has been Starmer’s only and best asset, with a new Tory leader Starmer will have lost his only weapon.

Then again if Durham police present Sir Keir Starmer with a fixed penalty notice he could well be gone before Johnson, now that would shake up politics.

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