Boris Johnson will today appeal to his war party to unite behind him after an extraordinary attempt by one of his own deputies to prevent him from becoming prime minister.
Apart from a last-minute shock, this morning Mr Johnson is appointed the new leader of the Conservative Party after a six-week competition dominated by Brexit.
Sources in Mr Johnson’s camp last night predicted he would win more than 60 percent of the vote, giving him a “free hand” to dismiss his enemies and set the Tories on a new course.
He has planned a short thank-you speech in which he will repeat his election promise to bring Britain out of the EU on 31 October with or without an agreement and call on his party to turn its weapons against Jeremy Corbyn.
But he is also expected to make an appeal for party unity after a laborious campaign that saw Tory Remainer’s vows to overthrow his government when he tries to pursue a no deal exit.
Yesterday Alan Duncan, Mr Johnson’s former deputy, dramatically resigned as foreign minister to prevent him from becoming prime minister.
Sir Alan, a long-time critic of Mr. Johnson, invoked the Queen as he tried to force a vote of confidence in the Commons today – but the move was ruled out by spokesman John Bercow.
International Development Minister Rory Stewart also informed Mr Johnson yesterday that he would resign from the cabinet before taking power, as did Philip Hammond and Justice Minister David Gauke.
Mr Stewart announced yesterday evening that he would join the group of Remainer rebels on the back benches of the Tory and say: “There is a majority of two and I have at least three friends”.
Overall, up to a dozen ministers are expected to jump off the ship in the next 36 hours before Mr Johnson officially becomes Prime Minister tomorrow afternoon.
On the eve of what is likely to take a few dramatic days, former Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major warned Mr Johnson that pursuing a No Deal Brexit would end in disaster.
The newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, also predicted that she could become Prime Minister if Mr Johnson is forced to hold a speed dial this year.
If Mr Johnson is elected Tory leader today, he will officially become prime minister tomorrow. Ms May will hold a final meeting tomorrow with the Prime Minister’s questions at the Commons before travelling to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen of her resignation.
Whitehall sources said that despite the slim majority of the government, Her Majesty is expected to send for Mr. Johnson.
The former foreign minister will then immediately begin a cabinet reshuffle. The injured are expected to include Mrs May’s deputy chairman David Lidington, business secretary Greg Clark and Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley.
Mr Johnson then prepares to make a Commons statement setting out his government program for Thursday, just hours before the MPs’ dissolution for the long summer recess. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who is expected to join the cabinet, last night played down the prospect of a heavy mutiny against the new leader by Tory deputies.
He added: “I think the number of troublemakers will be relatively small because it will be so obviously complacent. But the Tory deputies’ attitudes against a No Deal Brexit seemed to harden last night.
Mr Stewart revealed that he had been invited to talks with Mr Johnson, but had told him that he would rather give up his cabinet seat than work in a government willing to consider a No Deal Brexit. Previously, Sir Alan had given up by warning that Brexit had placed a “dark cloud” over the country.
The Minister, who once described Mr Johnson as a “circus act”, wrote to Mr Bercow and suggested that he hold a vote today in the Commons on the acceptance of Mr Johnson as Prime Minister.
He wrote: “This is the first time in our parliamentary history that the Prime Minister of a minority government has changed in the medium term. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the normal assumption that the succession will take place automatically applies, and his ability to achieve a majority in Parliament should probably be tested before the Prime Minister can safely tell the Queen that he will be the successor.