Tory MPs, including a junior minister, are holding back from submitting letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson because they fear their names will leak and will face reprisals from the whips.
Rebel Conservatives trying to orchestrate enough names to oust the prime minister say that many MPs, particularly newer ones, are concerned about the privacy of the process.
They worry that the Tory whips will be spying outside the office of Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the Committee in 1922, and do not trust emails to be accidentally shared or viewed by staff who have access to the accounts.
Some senior Tories who are publicly opposed to Johnson have taken on the role of conduits carrying letters to Brady. One said they had offered to take letters to Brady's parliamentary office on behalf of colleagues concerned about leaks, as there was a pervasive feeling of mistrust among new MPs who had not been through the vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
They said that they had repeatedly reassured colleagues that no letters had leaked from the challenge against May, and that MPs had not been prepared to email their letters because of concerns about others having access to their inboxes or computers.
Another Conservative backbencher said that the newer MPs in particular were worried about being targeted by the whips if they went public with having submitted letters, and if the coup attempt was ultimately unsuccessful.
A third MP said that some of those who have gone public with their opposition to Johnson already felt as though their lives were being made difficult by the whips.
At least one minister has resigned over putting in a letter over fears that his name could come out and he would have to resign if the challenge is unsuccessful.
Nearly 20 Tory MPs have publicly stated that they have submitted letters, and 45 in total have publicly questioned Johnson's leadership.
If the threshold of 54 MPs is reached, Brady will inform No 10 and a confidence vote will be held on Johnson's future as leader.
The number of MPs who have called for the resignation of the prime minister in the year 2019 has been growing. Simon Fell, MP for Barrow, publicly challenged Johnson's position, saying an apology over Partygate was insufficient Fell, who was part of the pork pie plot of MPs who met to discuss their loss of faith in Johnson earlier in the year, stopped short of saying he had written a letter of no confidence in the PM.
I am left feeling angry and disappointed. It beggars belief that when the government was doing so much to help people during the Pandemic, a rotten core with an unacceptable culture carried on regardless of restrictions placed on the rest of us, he wrote a letter to constituents.
These findings are a slap in the face, and to many of us think they are a slap in the face. The culture that Ms Gray details details says is unforgivable and I certainly won't be defending it. There was no exceptions to the rules for the activities that took place, and there is no excuse for them.
As Ms Gray details, a corrosive culture and a failure in leadership allowed this to happen and apologised after the fact was insufficient Trust matters. The whole house of cards is at risk of collapse when trust is lost. Standards in public life go to the heart of maintaining it. Other members of the 2019 cohort who have called for Johnson to go include Aaron Bell, Alicia Kearns, Elliot Colburn and Anthony Mangnall.