ACCORDING to some Tory MPs, meeting the threshold for the number of letters needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson is “close”.

With government whips reportedly in a “frenzy” as they attempt to block the number of letters sent to the 1922 committee reaching 54, what will it take for Johnson to leave his post as PM?

Unfortunately, as Johnson well knows, his future is in the hands of his backbenchers, why else would there be fervent claims of blackmail, pressure and corruption coming from Westminster as his government whips try to stop the vote coming to fruition.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon 'shocked' by No 10 'blackmail' claims and calls for probe

It’s part of the PM’s playbook – duck, dodge and defy democracy. If Johnson had his way he’d simply remain in hiding until the storm is over, but he tried that and it didn’t work.

Johnson is pursuing a Trumpian-style premiership for all its follies. Throughout the pandemic the public has been horrified, furious and left gobsmacked at times by the levels of incompetence and scandals coming from Downing Street, each one worse than the last.

It’s part of a bid to desensitise the public and it almost worked, even through the Owen Paterson affair, but the revelations that staffers and politicians were boozing it up in Number 10 while the rest of us stuck to the rules has cut through, much to the chagrin of the Tories – partygate isn't going away. 

The National:

Johnson will try to ride out the calls for him to resign unless a no confidence vote is triggered

They brought out Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries earlier this week to threaten the BBC licence fee and funding for the state broadcaster – a guaranteed politically dividing issue – to try and distract from the PM’s future, and that didn’t work either.

But back to the likelihood of a resignation – there won’t be one. Johnson will simply have to be removed.

There are two final nails needed in Johnson’s coffin to make this a reality: Sue Gray’s report, expected next week, will have to be damning, and the 1922 committee threshold will have to be met.

Reports emerged on Thursday that Gray had found the smoking gun - an email from a Downing Street official to Johnson’s principal private secretary warning that the May 20 “bring your own booze” party would be in contravention of the rules, but they went ahead with it anyway.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon tears into Douglas Ross over double standards at FMQs

If the Gray report links this back to Johnson, he has no more room to manoeuvre and pretend he’s oblivious – that somehow his entire staff and the culture in his place of work and residence has absolutely nothing to do with him. It would also remove any semblance of doubt that Johnson lied to parliament, and broke the ministerial code.

The drawback is that Gray is a civil servant, she has headed inquiries which led to the resignation of Cabinet ministers before, but how far she will go in the report remains to be seen.

If Gray’s report is a damning indictment of Johnson and the 54 threshold hasn’t been reached by the time it comes out, it could be the final push that some Tory backbenchers need. It is most likely what some of them are waiting for, and currently hedging their bets. This possibility could see a vote of no confidence and a potential leadership election early next week.

After reports of intimidation from government whips and fears that they would lose out if Johnson stays, this is the most likely route: they will save their own skin.

But what if the report clears the PM? Expect Downing Street to see that as licence to sweep it under the carpet and move on, Tory MPs will be forced to back the PM and Johnson will stay.

An opposition vote of no confidence, like one tabled by the LibDems, is unlikely to make it to the House floor and go to a vote, as only 18 MPs have backed it so far.

The National:

How does a vote of no confidence work in the Tory party?

TORY MPs can write to the chairman of the 1922 committee if they believe a change in party leadership is needed.

The threshold for letters of no confidence is currently 54, 15% of the parliamentary cohort of Tory MPs. If this is reached a vote will be called.

If the vote is held and the Prime Minister wins he will have 12 months of immunity from a fresh challenge to his premiership.

But, if he loses, the PM will be out on his ear and barred from running in the following leadership contest - which could take weeks.