Boris Johnson has reminded Tory MPs that the Conservative party won its biggest electoral victory in 40 years under his leadership.
The prime minister was greeted by the traditional banging of desks as he addressed a private meeting in Westminster ahead of Monday evening’s confidence vote.
Mr Johnson warned MPs against “getting into some hellish Groundhog Day debate” about the merits of belonging in the European Union’s single market and reigniting old Brexit rows.
PM greeted by ‘clapping and banging’ by Tory MPs – follow latest updates
He reminded them of “what an incredible force we can be when we are united” and said the party won its biggest electoral victory in 40 years under his leadership, when he secured an 80-seat majority in the 2019 general election.
“The people in this room won the biggest electoral victory for the Conservatives for 40 years under my leadership,” he said.
It comes ahead of a confidence vote which will take place between 6pm and 8pm this evening in the House of Commons, with the result expected around an hour after voting closes.
The vote represents the biggest threat to Mr Johnson’s leadership so far.
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Ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson sent MPs a letter in which he said he has “come under a great deal of fire” in recent months over partygate and admitted “some of that criticism has perhaps been fair, some less so”.
But he said the confidence vote is a “golden chance to put this behind us”, and added: “With your support, I believe that tonight we have a great prize within our grasp”.
“We can put an end to the media’s favourite obsession. We can get on with the job without the noises off,” he wrote after noting the COVID vaccine rollout, low unemployment, helping Ukraine and sending migrants to Rwanda as his successes.
It comes after it was confirmed at least 54 MPs – 15% of Tory MPs – had written to the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson.
Sir Graham said he notified the prime minister on Sunday that the threshold had been reached and they agreed on timings for the vote on Monday evening together.