Rishi Sunak has been hit by new letters of no confidence from Conservative MPs amid fresh questions over his leadership.
The anger of Tory backbenchers has been fuelled by the way they felt they had been treated during negotiations over the Rwanda Bill, which cleared the Commons on Wednesday.
While only 11 of Mr Sunak’s own MPs voted against the legislation at its third reading, 64 had defied him the previous night to back amendments aimed at toughening the Bill.
A Tory rebel source confirmed that “several” backbench MPs have put in letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, and cited Downing Street’s refusal to accept the amendments as the final straw.
Mr Sunak would face a vote on his leadership if 52 of his MPs, amounting to 15 per cent of the parliamentary party, submitted such letters.
A senior Conservative MP told The Telegraph they had handed in a no confidence letter after the proposed changes to the Rwanda Bill were rejected.
“This is basically the last shot we’ve got, the absolute last bullet in the gun,” said the MP. “There is minimum evidence that we can pull ourselves out of this tailspin.”
An MP who voted against the Rwanda Bill at its third reading said they did not intend to submit a letter “at the moment”, but added: “It’s hard to see how we will overturn Labour’s lead under this leader. I think part of the problem is there is no obvious alternative.
“I think a lot of people are regretting dispatching Boris Johnson. There’s a lot of seller’s remorse at the moment.”
Mr Johnson resigned as prime minister in July 2022 after more than 50 ministers including Mr Sunak, then his chancellor, quit their posts in the wake of partygate and the Chris Pincher affair. This was despite him winning a confidence vote a month earlier.
A poll of polls by the Politico website showed that the Conservatives trailed Labour by an average of 10 points on July 9 2022, the day Mr Johnson announced his departure. Under Mr Sunak, they are currently an average of 18 points behind.
After a meeting of Rwanda Bill rebels held shortly before Wednesday night’s vote, another source said: “Everybody in the room was deeply upset with the way the Government has handled matters in recent days and, in particular, how negotiations have been strung along and let down at the final minute.
“Colleagues are particularly upset that the Government has chosen yet further to wed itself exclusively, in every sense of the word, to the One Nation group. Not a single person in the room thought it was going to work.”
The One Nation caucus, which says it represents at least 106 centrist Conservatives, voted for Mr Sunak’s Bill despite concerns over international law. Damian Green, the chairman of the group, had insisted he could not back the Bill if any further steps were taken to toughen it up.
A Tory MP who abstained on the legislation said they were “not angry, just disappointed” and predicted that the Bill would not result in a single deportation flight.
“Everyone knows that the Bill is not going to work, so I think we’re going to be back to square one by August or September,” said the MP.
“I am aware, to be honest, of three or four people who have put in letters over all this, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes. You’re probably into about 30, something like that, just from my sense of what people are saying.
“The biggest issue really is that nobody knows who they want to come next. So why would anyone submit a letter when they have not got a very, very clear idea of who follows?”
Dame Andrea Jenkyns, a Johnson loyalist and former education minister, is the only Tory MP who has so far gone public with a letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak. Her came after the Prime Minister sacked Suella Braverman as home secretary in Novembe.