Jacob Rees-Mogg says if Boris Johnson is toppled as Tory leader, his successor should call a general election
As Boris Johnson loyalists circle their wagons around the embattled prime minister, the leader of the party's parliamentary faction has argued the UK's political system is not what it seems on paper. The nation is actually closer to having a US-style arrangement, Jacob Rees-Mogg says, so if Johnson is removed as the leader of the Conservative Party, his successor should seek a new mandate to govern from the public through a general election.
The top MP made his case during an interview with BBC Two's 'Newsnight' on Tuesday. He was speaking on behalf of what host Kirsty Wark described as Johnson's "praetorian guard," who reportedly had been warning MPs that his removal would lead to an early election.
"It is my view that we have moved, for better or worse, to essentially a presidential system, and therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party," the lawmaker said. "Every prime minister would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate."
Rees-Mogg said Gordon Brown failed to heed to that advice after replacing Tony Blair in 2007, and "that didn't work" - presumably referring to the Labour Party's defeat in a general election three years later.
He added that Johnson did the opposite when he took the Conservative leadership from Theresa May in July 2019. The snap election resulted in a strong win for Johnson's promise to deliver a decisive break-up with the EU.
Despite past precedents of the premier's office being passed on smoothly when the ruling party changed its leader mid-term, the practice is no longer in line with "the mood of the constitution," Rees-Mogg said.
The exchange came after a report in The Times, which said allies of Johnson have been calling Tory MPs to gauge their support ahead of the publication of a full report on Partygate.
The prime minister stands accused of secretly flouting Covid-19 restrictions while telling the rest of the country to abide by them. It is widely believed that Whitehall ethics investigator Sue Gray is close to sharing her findings with the public.
The threat of a new general election was used to convince wavering lawmakers to take Johnson's side against the rebels, who have publicly called for his resignation, the newspaper said.