Conservative Party rules mean MPs decide on the final two leadership contenders from a long list of hopefuls. But after Theresa May saw off a vote of no confidence last week, MPs are already preparing themselves for a leadership election next year. Before winning the vote on Wednesday, the Prime Minister pledged to step down before the next election.
Tory MPs have told the Sunday Express that there are plans to use tactical voting to ensure Mr Johnson, the overwhelming favourite among the members, does not get into the final two.
Similar tactics were used in 2001 to stop Michael Portillo getting to the final two – opening the way for Iain Duncan Smith to beat Ken Clarke in the membership vote.
One Tory MP said: “Boris would probably win among members but we will ensure they do not get the chance to vote for him.”
Another said: “There is no chance of Boris getting to the final two.
“There will be tactical voting to make sure.”
Leading Brexiteer Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns wants to see a senior Leave supporter as next leader.
She said: “We are seeing Remainer MPs manoeuvre to try to force us to have a second referendum – and trying to stop Boris getting to the final two is another means of undermining democracy in the party.”
Mr Johnson has always insisted he is not preparing a leadership bid but he is one of several being mooted as likely contenders.