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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, makes a speech during a visit to West Yorkshire, Britain Sept. 5, 2019.POOL/Reuters

Boris Johnson has been Britain’s Prime Minister for barely six weeks and he’s already sparked a constitutional crisis, lost his majority in Parliament and orchestrated one of the most brutal purges in Conservative Party history. And now he wants an election.

On Monday, Mr. Johnson will renew his call for an early vote even though his party could suffer at the polls because of his uncompromising position on Brexit. He’s showing no sign of backing down or relenting on his decision to expel 21 MPs from the party because they rebelled against his plan to pull the country out of the European Union on Oct. 31, no matter what. “Discipline is always tough,” Mr. Johnson told reporters on Thursday after confirming he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than extend the deadline. Even the departure of his brother Jo Johnson, who quit cabinet and won’t run again as a Tory, has failed to dissuade him.

For many Tories, Mr. Johnson’s go-for-broke approach on Brexit is a threat to the party’s long-held ability to attract a broad spectrum of support. The Conservatives are one of the most successful political organizations in the Western world, with roots dating back 400 years and a roster of famous leaders including Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Margaret Thatcher. Disraeli’s concept of “one nation” Conservatism, with its aim of tackling social division, gave the party a deep social conscience and became a rallying cry for Tory moderates. Many fear that throwing out moderates such as Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, will narrow the party’s appeal. “I don’t recognize this party,” said Ken Clarke, a Tory MP for nearly 50 years who held cabinet posts under three Conservative prime ministers and was among those expelled this week. The party, he told ITV, had “been taken over by a rather knock-about character who’s got this bizarre ‘crash it through’ philosophy.”

Mr. Johnson has infuriated party moderates by repositioning the Conservatives into a pro-Brexit battle force. He has no time for the patient negotiating style of his predecessor Theresa May, whose carefully crafted EU withdrawal agreement went down in flames in Parliament thanks to a group of Tory rebels led by Mr. Johnson. Within days of becoming Prime Minister on July 24, Mr. Johnson ousted Ms. May’s sympathizers from cabinet and brought in Dominic Cummings, the hard-charging strategist of the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum. Although officially titled a senior adviser to the government, Mr. Cummings has become Mr. Johnson’s attack dog for any Tory MP who dares backtrack on Brexit. When one ex-cabinet minister, Greg Clark, offered a compromise to the Brexit impasse this week, Mr. Cummings was reported to have told him: “When are you ... MPs going to realize, we are leaving on Oct. 31?” He’s also believed to have been behind the strategy to suspend Parliament next week for more than a month, prompting outrage from MPs, who said the move ran against the country’s constitutional conventions.

The tumult in the party and the actions of Mr. Cummings led to an extraordinary intervention by former Conservative prime minister John Major this week. In a speech in Scotland on Thursday, Mr. Major said: “The legitimate concerns of those who have been banished from the party … seem to be worth nothing – unless they become cyphers, parroting the views of a prime minister influenced by a political anarchist, who cares not a fig for the future of the party I have served.” Even some of Mr. Johnson’s supporters, such as former cabinet minister Michael Fallon, have urged caution. “I think, by definition, some five million Conservatives must have voted remain [in the 2016 referendum] and we have got to be very careful not to drive them into the hands of remainer parties like the Liberal Democrats in England or the Scottish nationalists in Scotland,” he told the BBC on Friday.

But others applaud Mr. Johnson’s decisiveness. They argue that he must fend off the challenge from the Brexit Party, led by long-time Brexiteer Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage launched the party last spring in response to what he called Ms. May’s dithering. It immediately leaped ahead of the Conservatives in the opinion polls, and won 29 seats in last May’s election to the European Parliament, more than any other party including the Conservatives, which took just four. But since Mr. Johnson became Conservative leader, the Tories have topped the polls and the Brexit Party has faded to fourth.

“A lot of the people I now talk to, even those who voted remain, they are saying, let’s just get it done, let’s leave. So I like what he’s doing,” said John Fisher, a 65-year party member in Norwich. Mr. Fisher didn’t support Mr. Johnson in the leadership race, and he voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. But he’s a convert to Mr. Johnson’s strategy and his pledge to leave on Oct. 31. “I think [Mr. Johnson] is just one of these guys who has come in to do a job, and he said, ‘Well, I’m going to do it.’ Most of the public seem to be on side with that,” Mr. Fisher added. He’s also shed no tears for the expelled MPs. “They’ve had three years to come on board and they’re still being awkward. I haven’t a lot of sympathy for them.”

Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University, said Mr. Johnson is taking a gamble with his election call. “There is a very big risk that if the Conservative Party in its desperation to beat off Nigel Farage becomes a sort of ersatz Brexit Party ... that it will shed moderate Conservative voters and in particular pro-[EU] voters who could then flip over to the Liberal Democrats.” He added that Mr. Johnson hopes to offset the likely loss of seats in Scotland and southern England, where Brexit isn’t popular, with big gains in pro-Brexit ridings now held by the Labour Party. “It’s a risky calculation simply because it relies on a fair few [Brexit] supporting Labour voters to flip over to the Conservatives and as we’ve seen, that doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as the Conservative Party has often hoped,” Prof. Bale said.

It’s not clear yet if Mr. Johnson will get an election. Under the U.K.'s Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, he needs the support of two-thirds of MPs to call a vote before the next scheduled one in 2022. The opposition parties have refused to consent, and said they will only relent once they are certain there won’t be a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31. That’s trapped Mr. Johnson and raised questions about whether Parliament will be left in limbo for weeks. Mr. Johnson isn’t giving up just yet. "We will find a way,” he said on Thursday.

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