BORIS Johnson has suggested that a snap General Election is not off the cards if his party insist on trying to force him from office.

The moment came in the midst of an uncomfortable appearance for the Prime Minister in front of Westminster’s Liaison Committee.

Johnson was being grilled by MPs over his performance in Number 10 in a committee meeting which had been scheduled before the wave of resignations sparked by Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid walking out on Tuesday evening.

By Wednesday afternoon at 5pm, 34 ministers had quit Johnson’s government as pressure piled on the Tory leader.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson facing no confidence vote by Monday, reports suggest

The influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs has even hinted at plans to change the rules which prevent a second vote of no confidence in the same leader in one year in an effort to force Johnson out.

At the Liaison Committee, William Wragg, the vice-chair of the 1922 Committee, asked Johnson about the “Lascelles Principles”.

This is a quirk of the UK constitution which says a monarch can refuse to dissolve parliament if three conditions are met: the current parliament is still viable, a General Election would be detrimental to the economy, and a new prime minister could be found.

The thrust of Wragg’s question seemed to be towards threats of a snap General Election, which reports say Johnson has been considering.

Responding to the question from the key Tory backbencher, the Prime Minister said: “You are asking about something that is not going to happen, unless everybody is so crazy as to try and you know err, you know have a new err …”

Johnson was pushed strongly on what he had been planning to say after the word “unless” by the chair of the Liaison Committe, another senior Tory MP named Sir Bernard Jenkin (below).

The National: Sir Bernard Jenkin

Instead of answering, Johnson repeatedly obfuscated and refused to give a clear answer – at one point turning to a note from a special adviser.

Asked “unless what?”, the Prime Minister said: “I think that history teaches us that … [here he was handed a note] … that the best way to have a period of stability in government and not to have early elections is to allow people with mandates get on.”

Again pressed what he had meant by the word “unless”, Johnson said: “Unless people ignore that very good principle.

“History teaches us that the best way to avoid pointless political disturbance is to allow the government that has a mandate to get on and deliver and that is what we’re going to do.”

READ MORE: Ian Blackford calls for General Election as he tells PM 'it really is over'

Asked a third time, he said: “Unless people forget that.

“That means that on the whole I think that it’s a good thing that governments which have a substantial mandate from the electorate and are doing an enormous amount of stuff when that country is facing a lot of pressure, particularly economic pressure, when there are serious international issues at stake I think on the whole it is sensible not to get bogged down in discussion about electoral politics.”

The comments were widely read as a threat of a snap General Election. Jenkin said: “Can I just remind you that when the prime minister Major seemed to be threatening a General Election because he was having trouble with the Maastricht bill it didn’t do his reputation any good at all.”

Johnson said that was “exactly the point he was trying to make”, prompting the chair to reply: “Then I don’t know why you said ‘unless’.”

ITV’s Paul Brand said Johnson’s comments were a “clear ultimatum to Tory MPs – try and get rid of me and I’m calling an election”.

The Mirror’s Pippa Crerar agreed, commenting: “Feels like a threat to Tory MPs that he'll call an election if they try to oust him.”

Asked if he had plans to call a General Election later at the Liaison Committee, Johnson said he did not see one happening before 2024.

The Prime Minister's excruciating appearance at the committee also saw him admit to having met a former KGB operative, while foreign secretary, without officials present.

Johnson said he “certainly” met former Evening Standard proprietor Alexander Lebedev in Italy after being asked to confirm details of previous encounters.

It comes amid an investigation by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee over the appointment of Lebedev’s son, Evgeny Lebedev (below with Johnson), to the House of Lords.

The National:

The appointment has been shrouded in controversy after The Sunday Times alleged security services withdrew an assessment that granting the peerage posed a national security risk after the Prime Minister intervened.

Asked by Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson if he met with Alexander Lebedev without officials on April 28 2018, Johnson replied: “I certainly have met the gentleman in question who used to be the proprietor of the London Evening Standard when I was mayor of London.

“I certainly am not going to deny having met Alexander Lebedev, I certainly have.”

Johnson added: “I have certainly met him without officials.

“I met him on a very few occasions.

“On the occasion you are mentioning, if that was when I was foreign secretary, then yes.”

Johnson said he reported to officials that he met Lebedev.