Boris Johnson has suggested that Vladimir Putin would have not invaded Ukraine earlier this year if he had the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers “on his case”.
Speaking at the G7 summit, the prime minister boasted to CNN that he had “a new mandate for my party” after squeaking through the recent confidence vote arranged by the powerful Tory committee.
“I’m very happy … I got a higher percentage of the parliamentary votes than I did the first time. So, I’m very happy, we will move forward,” he said on the challenge by Tory rebels.
“I think the great thing about democracy is that leaders are under scrutiny and that I do have, even though you say I got things going on back home, that’s a good thing. I have got people on my case, I have got people making arguments,” said Mr Johnson.
The PM added: “Do you really think that Vladimir Putin would have launched an invasion of another sovereign country if he’d had people to listen to properly … arguing, if he’d had a committee of backbenchers, the 1922 Committee, on his case?”
It comes as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the 1922 Committee rules should not be changed to allow a second confidence vote against Mr Johnson within 12 months – despite his own calls for the PM to resign.
Current rules state that confidence votes can only be held once a year. But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has outlined plans to stand for the 1922 Committee’s executive role on a manifesto pledge to change the rules.
Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Show, Mr Ross said: “I’m a member of the 1922 Committee but I’m not on the executive committee and it is for the executive committee to look at rule changes.”
He added: “I personally don’t think we should change the rules midway through a process. I think that’s the wrong way to do it.”
Senior Tory MP Tim Loughton said on Sunday that ministers who oppose Mr Johnson should have the courage to resign, a senior Tory MP says – arguing that would provide the “momentum” to force him from power.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson also claimed that the UK would have not been able to be at the forefront of providing support for Ukraine if it was still in the EU.
Asked if the UK was better off after Brexitthe PM told CNN “it is [better off]”, before mentioning Britain’s Covid vaccine response and its ability to strike new trade deals.
The PM added: “We are able to change some of our regulations to take back control of our borders. We are no longer spending shedloads of money on projects that we couldn’t control. And that was a good decision.”
Mr Johnson went on: “I don’t think that the UK within the European Union… I don’t think that we would have been out in front, as the first European country to arm the Ukrainians, to give them the wherewithal to protect themselves.”