MPs will return to Westminster on Monday, amid continuing speculation about a possible vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Some Tory MPs have told the BBC such a ballot could be triggered this week, as the prime minister continues to face calls to resign over lockdown parties.
On Sunday ministers publicly backed the PM to win a vote, should one be called.
Business minister Paul Scully told Channel 4 that a vote “may well” happen – but Johnson “will face it down”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also told the BBC the prime minister would not lose a confidence vote among his own MPs.
In the 10 days since MPs returned to their constituencies for the half term break, speculation has swirled about whether Johnson will face an internal electoral battle to save his premiership.
For a confidence ballot to be triggered, 54 Tory MPs must formally put in a letter to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, asking for one.
So far 28 Conservative MPs have publicly called on Boris Johnson to step down. But some Conservative MPs have privately told the BBC they believe the threshold for triggering a vote could happen in the coming week.
On Sunday, both Shapps and Scully shrugged off crowds booing the PM at the Jubilee thanksgiving service, with Shapps saying politicians didn’t expect to be “popular all the time”.
Mr Scully told Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show politicians had been “booed through time immemorial”.
He added: “We may well have a vote of confidence. If it does happen, the prime minister, I know, will face it down.
“But whatever happens, we’ve got to get back to governing, to tackle the things that people want us to do on a day-to-day basis, not continuing… to look back at two years previous.”
On top of the internal machinations of his own backbench MPs seeking his removal, Johnson also faces two upcoming electoral tests on June 23 – with by-elections being held in seats vacated by former Tory MPs in controversial circumstances.
The first is in the marginal West Yorkshire constituency of Wakefield to replace Imran Ahmad Khan, who was jailed for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
The second is in the safe-seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, after Neil Parish stood down after admitting to twice watching pornography in the House of Commons.
Ahead of these votes, this week Johnson is expected to make a speech on housing policy in an attempt to focus attention on his government’s agenda.
Under Conservative Party rules, for a leadership ballot to take place 15 per cent of the parliamentary party – currently 54 MPs – must write letters to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee saying they no longer support the PM.
It is not known how many MPs have submitted one so far to the current chairman, Sir Graham Brady.
This is because he is notoriously discreet about what the tally of letters is at any given time.
If a vote is called, a majority of Tory MPs must vote against their leader for them to be removed, which would mean in the current Parliament the rebellious MPs would need to get 180 votes in total to succeed in removing Johnson.
A Conservative leader who survives a confidence vote is safe from any further challenge for a year. (BBC)