Mobile phones will be confiscated from Conservative MPs voting to decide Boris Johnson’s fate – because they cannot be trusted to stick to the rule not to post pictures of their ballot papers.
As a result, party officials have decided reluctantly they have no option but to remove phones when the 2022 cohort decides, this evening, whether Mr Johnson should remain in No 10.
One official said the Tories were “very keen” that no pictures of ballot papers appear this time, although they didn’t identify the culprits that broke the rules in the December 2018 contest.
All 359 current Conservative MPs are expected to vote, which would mean the prime minister needs 180 votes to win the challenge to his leadership – although more than 100 rebels could still fatally wound him.
They include the MP arrested on suspicion of rape and other sexual offences and ordered to stay away from Westminster, who is nevertheless able to vote through a proxy.
The result will be declared at 9pm, with Mr Johnson expected to be told the result very shortly beforehand. He is unlikely to attend the declaration in a Commons committee room.
The process will be overseen by Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, the only person who counted the number of letters demanding a no-confidence vote towards the tally of 54 needed to trigger it.
It is understood that he broke the news to the prime minister that the figure of 54 had been reached early on Sunday afternoon, before he attended the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
He had also received a “clear indication” from other MPs that they would be submitting letters on Monday following the conclusion of the Platinum Jubilee festivities.
Sir Graham and Mr Johnson reached a mutual decision that the contest should take place on Monday, as soon as possible, rather than let the uncertainty drag on.
If Mr Johnson loses the confidence vote, he will be required to step down as Tory leader, although he would remain as prime minister until a successor is found.
The contest to replace him would probably last for around two months, as MPs first whittle down an expected long list of candidates to a final two choices, to be put to Tory members.
In his letter pleading with Tory MPs to stand by him, the prime minister claimed his victory would “end weeks of media speculation and take this country forward, immediately, as one united party”.
Tonight is the moment to draw a line under the issues our opponents want us to talk about – and to focus instead on what really matters: the needs of the voters who sent us to Westminster.
“I am asking you for your support tonight because I know how much we can achieve together.”