No confidence vote: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace backs Boris Johnson as Lancashire Tory MPs decide which way to vote
Defence Secretary and Lancashire MP Ben Wallace is backing PM Boris Johnson in tonight’s confidence vote.
The Wyre and Preston North MP and cabinet member emerged as an early supporter after news broke that the Tory backbench 1922 committee had received enough calls to trigger a no-confidence vote on the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Wyre and Preston North MP tweeted this morning: “In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before. On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence.”
South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher is also supporting the PM in tonight's vote and says it's because she trusts him to deliver on the Northern Powerhouse.
She said: "I'm supporting the PM tonight. I only joined politics, from no political background whatsoever, at 36. I joined to deliver for South Ribble, Lancashire, the North of England, I want a Northern Powerhouse.
"We've expanded the name to Levelling up, as there are other areas like ours which will contribute much more to our economy and community.
"The PM was right to apologise, many people sacrificed huge amounts during Covid, and kept to the rules, as I did, and they are rightly cross, but my judgement is a Northern Powerhouse is best delivered by this PM getting on with the job, not engaging in more London media centric Westminster bubble stuff."
Meanwhile Ribble Valley Conservative MP and Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said he was unable to comment because of his role as Deputy Speaker. Today he was assessing opinion in his constituency. He said: "I will be voting but I'm taking soundings from my members. As Deputy Speaker I won't be making any public announcements one way or the other."
He added: “I've had a couple of calls already from two of my councillors. I'm taking on board what they say."
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said he was unable to comment due to being a member of the 1922 committee. He said: "I’m part of the process of whatever is going to happen later on. It would just compromise the process."
But he added he was returning to London earlier than planned today and said the timing of the vote was unexpected: "It's very sudden. Nobody saw this one coming - let's see what happens at the end of the day."
Shortly after 9am Scott Benton, Conservative MP for Blackpool South made his support for Boris Johnson public. He tweeted: “The Prime Minister has my full support. Mistakes in No 10 have been made but there is no doubt that Boris is the best person to face the challenges that lie ahead. I urge colleagues to come together and get behind him.
He continued: "Boris is a proven winner. He’s delivered Brexit, got us through Covid and is delivering support to tackle the cost of living. Make no mistake, many in the red wall voted specifically for Boris in 2019 - no other Tory leader could reach the parts of the country he has.”
Scott also responded to a tweet by former Cabinet member Jeremy Hunt who had declared: “Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.”
Scott expressed fears about the future loss of Tory seats won in former Labour strongholds and said: ”The idea that could maintain the red wall at the next election if we were led by a PM from the soft, wet left of the Party is completely for the birds.”
A spokesman for Paul Maynard, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said the MP was not commenting in advance of the vote. Comment has also been sought from Fylde Tory MP Mark Menzies and former Northern Powerhouse minister, the Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry.
The vote is due to take place between 6pm and 8pm tonight after 54 MPs submitted letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister to the chairman of the 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady.
This was enough to trigger the secret ballot – at least 15 per cent of Tory MPs needed to declare no confidence in their leader before a vote could be held.