The health secretary said he wished the former Brexit secretary David Davis had not told Johnson at prime minister's questions on Wednesday : "In the name of God, go."

"If I were her, I'd be cartwheeling through the lobbies," one Tory MP, who served in her Cabinet told i.

The words echoed a plea made to the former wartime leader Neville Chamberlain in the Commons.

"We don't always agree on everything and that is one thing I don ’ t agree with him on," he told Sky News.

“ It is damaging, of course it is.

That ’ s it.

Many Tory MPs have been critical of Johnson's handling of a slew of allegations about parties held in Downing Street and other parts of government during lockdown.

However, they are seeking to trigger a no-confidence vote in Johnson by submitting the required number of 54 letters calling for such a ballot.

The latest estimate by Tory rebels is that about 30 letters have been submitted.

I think a byelection would be welcome, I think Christian would be happy with a byelection.

"Given the people of Bury South rightly voted Conservative in 2019 – they wanted to get Brexit done, they wanted to see a strong economy – and now they 've got an MP that has changed his affiliation without their permission, why not give them a say ?"

Javid, who ran for the leadership in 2019, did not rule out doing so again.

“ There is no leadership election. ”

Politics at the moment is all Shakespearean tragedy.

First, the defection : to leave your political tribe and sashay across the floor to your sworn enemies, just minutes before your leader stands up to face the house and the nation, is about as cut-throat as it gets.

And while the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer crowed at his new recruit, activists on the left pored over what columnist Owen Jones called Wakeford's "atrocious voting record".

But if a strangely ebullient Johnson judged that a defection was precisely what was needed to unify rebellious MPs behind him, David Davis's act of treachery was something else altogether.

“ You might think that : I couldn ’ t possibly comment, ” he said.

One of the first to call for the prime minister to quit, Andrew Bridgen, told me he'd been under growing pressure from them in recent days, even suggesting the whips may have planted a "smear story" about him in the papers earlier in the week, “ which I don ’ t think was a coincidence ”.

It's never worked out that way so far.

Starmer often seems to lack the brutality of colleagues who have been around the corridors of power for longer.

There's now a trial of strength going on between the prime minister and his foes.

Boris Johnson is running out of escape routes.

“ 'nobody warned me party was against the rules, says man who set the rules."

Just minutes before PMQs, the Conservative MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford, defected to Labour, launching a blistering broadside against the Prime Minister in which he branded him "incapable" and “ disgraceful ”.

"This week he's got a new defence," the Labour leader said, more relaxed and deadly than we ’ d ever seen him before.

"When a prime minister is spending his time trying to convince the great British public that he's actually stupid rather than dishonest," she said, “ isn ’ t it time that he goes ? ” Unlike the broken figure he cut yesterday, Johnson initially seemed like he might be able to weather the storm.

He managed to maintain his composure through the pummeling.

They both resigned from Theresa May's Cabinet on the same day in 2018, triggering the slow fall of dominos which would later destroy her administration.

Now Davis ’ knife-like gaze settled on the new leader of the Conservative party.

"I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take," he said.

Or was he lying, even now, just another tiny falsehood to chuck onto the yawning heap that has come to define his premiership?

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