BORIS Johnson’s Premiership is on “death row” as he faces a two-week battle to save his political neck.
The PM has been warned he is in for the fight of his life as top Tories held emergency talks over when to bring his 907 days in office to a swift end.
One senior figure yesterday claimed up to 35 MPs had already sent letters of no confidence to backbenchers’ leader Sir Graham Brady.
If he receives 19 more, Mr Johnson will face a vote which would oust him as PM — and force a new leadership contest.
A Cabinet source said: “Boris is toast and deep down he knows that. He’s not stupid. He’ll be thinking long and hard about his way out now.
“He may reach the conclusion it is better to get out with a bit of dignity in his own time.
“Even if he wins a confidence vote, he’ll know that’s a step along the road towards the exit door.”
The pressure on the PM will mount tomorrow when angry MPs return from their constituencies after a weekend’s ear-bashing from voters over lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Many have been bombarded with emails from voters and faced the wrath of local party leaders this weekend. One revealed that nearly two-thirds of Tory activists in his constituency — 65 per cent — want Mr Johnson to resign.
A former Cabinet minister admitted: “The mood is truculent and angry, but as yet not regicidal.”
A colleague added: “Boris is finished but nobody quite has the heart to put him out of his misery just yet.
“We’re more or less agreed he has to go but it’s a big step to put in that letter which could seal his fate.
“It’s a bit like having a pet dog who is very sick. You know it’s time to have him put down but it takes a little time to pluck up courage to take him to the vet.”
Tory whips have been ordered to talk down MPs they fear may return to Westminster brandishing letters for 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham.
But even if he survives that, there are two other hurdles the PM must clear if he is to make it to the end of the month.
Firstly, Tory party managers fear a fresh wave of damaging revelations about the lockdown-busting booze culture at the heart of government could deliver a killer blow.
They believe Mr Johnson is the target of a coordinated “drip, drip” campaign of leaks and are aware somebody has 60 hours of video of aides rehearsing for the abandoned No10 TV briefings.
But the crucial flashpoint will be the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report following her inquiry into the partygate scandal.
It is expected at the end of next week.
Backbench Tory Andrew Bridgen insisted he did not need to wait for Ms Gray’s report and has already fired off a letter demanding a leadership vote.
He said: “It doesn’t matter whether the PM was present at the parties or not.
Ultimately, he is responsible for what goes on in government, he is responsible for the culture in No10, and what we’re seeing is one rule for them while the rest of us must do as we’re told.
“That’s just not acceptable. I’m not sure any apology will put that right.”
Cabinet members who publicly backed Mr Johnson after his apology on Wednesday admitted it was becoming harder by the day to justify their support.
One minister was given the excruciating task of shoring up the PM on TV hours after telling colleagues: “He could be gone within days.”
MPs have voiced frustrations over the PM trying to tell them the parties were not his fault — or senior allies going on TV to defend the indefensible.
One said: “I was furious about it but willing to let things blow over until I saw Jacob Rees-Mogg on Newsnight making a ludicrous attempt to support Boris.
“I was so livid I wrote a letter that night and handed it in to the 1922 Committee the next morning.
“If this is how the Government is going to behave, it has to end.
“I know others will be taking their lead from their local Conservative associations this weekend.”
Sir Graham Brady locks any letters in his safe and keeps the number a closely guarded secret.
But a senior figure told HOAR on Sunday yesterday: “I am led to believe that up to 35 have been submitted so far. If that’s true, it shows the strength of feeling.”
A No10 source disputed the figure and suggested it was “in the 20s”.
A ministerial source said that, based on confirmed letters, it was about 15.
Former No10 communications chief Jonathan Haslam said: “Boris is now deep in shark-infested waters, but he isn’t dead yet.”
Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for bellwether seat Amber Valley, Derbys, said the image of a boozy party at No10 hours before the Queen was pictured mourning her husband alone had caused widespread revulsion.
He added: “It just looks horrible. These people are meant to be the brightest and best running the country.
“It’s hard to conceive how so many stupid things could have happened.
Tory ex-minister Tobias Ellwood said the PM must “lead or step aside”.
Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes, Wilts, said: “Some lifelong Conservative voters have decided they cannot vote for us again while Boris Johnson is leader.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said yesterday it was in the “national interest” for Mr Johnson to resign.
He added: “What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.
“He is literally in hiding and unable to lead, so that’s why I’ve concluded that he has got to go.”