Boris Johnson will launch a “charm offensive” aimed at Tory MPs after being warned he faced a concerted backbench effort to undermine his leadership.
Johnson will this week seek to mend ties with disgruntled Tory backbenchers who have threatened to undermine his position as prime minister now that Dominic Cummings has left Downing Street.
In a bid to shore up his position, the prime minister is offering MPs a chance to write government policy on “levelling up” after many have begun to questions his suitability for the job.
The alarm has been raised after Tory whips picked up chatter that some people close to Cummings and former Downing Street communication director Lee Cain, who quit two days before Cummings, are plotting to move against the prime minister.
Last week, Cain and Cummings left Downing Street following a week of turmoil that saw the duo effectively fired by Johnson.
It is being reported that the two Vote Leave advisers lost a power struggle with Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and his new press secretary Allegra Stratton.
A leading Brexiteer said Johnson has lost his focus and was unable to stick to a decision.
The insider said: “The long-term question is: will the party do what it always does? Will it think it might lose an election and flip and go for someone else like Rishi Sunak?”
In a move to calm nerves, Johnson will set up a prime minister’s policy board, chaired by Neil O’Brien MP. Its aim will be to develop legislation that appeals to working-class leave voters who helped Johnson storm to victory in last year’s election.
O’Brien worked with then chancellor George Osborne in devising the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
The prime minister is also planning to overhaul Tory campaign headquarters to support newly-elected MPs, hold more meetings with backbenchers and visit the Commons tea room more often, send out senior aides to deal with backbencher concerns and set up a special taskforce on issues like “levelling up” and the Union to ensure MPs can feed into policy.
Johnson also is expected to lay out a 10-point plan for the environment next week, featuring a round table with green groups – an initiative that Cummings and Cain blocked for months.