Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has won the backing of a majority of Tory Members of Parliament in a confidence vote despite a significant revolt against his leadership.
The PM won 59% of the vote, which means Mr. Johnson is now immune from a Conservative leadership challenge for a year. In all, 211 Tory MPs voted that they have confidence in the PM’s leadership while 148 voted against him.
Mr. Johnson described his confidence vote win as “decisive”. Speaking after the voting process, he said it was a “very good, convincing” result and “an opportunity to put behind us all the stuff that the media goes on about”. The outcome of the elections will see the Prime Minister remain in office, but critics said the scale of the rebellion against him showed his authority is weakened, with some calling on him to resign.
A Decrease in Votes
The vote share in support of Mr. Johnson is lower than the 63% received by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, when she won a party confidence vote in 2018, before resigning six months later over a Brexit deadlock.
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer said a “divided” Conservative Party is “propping up” Mr. Johnson after he survived the confidence vote. Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, intimated that while Mr. Johnson hugged on to power, “his reputation is in tatters and his authority is now totally shot”.
However, Downing Street noted that the result “renews the PM’s mandate” and allows the government to “focus relentlessly on the issues that concern our voters”. Tory MP and Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, disclosed to the media that the Prime Minister “has lots to prove” but insisted the result “was pretty decisive”.
Shifting away from the confidence votes, some Tory MPs also expressed dissent over tax rises, the government’s response to rising living costs and its policy direction.
Notice of Confidence Vote
Mr. Johnson, who became Prime Minister in 2019, was informed he would face a vote on his leadership on Sunday, June 5, 2022, during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, after weeks of speculation over his future.
The decision to enter into a confidence vote was triggered by Conservative Members of Parliament after at least 15% of them wrote letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, who is the Chairman of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee. Discontent among Tory MPs grew after a highly critical report into lockdown parties in and near No.10 Downing Street during the Covid-19 pandemic was published last month (May 2022). The report by Senior Civil Servant, Sue Gray, revealed the extent of Covid rule-breaking at No.10, including at a birthday party Mr. Johnson was fined by the Police for attending in June 2020. The fine meant Mr. Johnson became the UK’s first serving Prime Minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law.
The last Conservative Prime Minister to face a party vote on her leadership was former Prime Minister, Theresa May, who won the vote but resigned six months later over her approach to Brexit. However, the vote share in support of Mr. Johnson is lower than the 63% received by Mrs. May, when she won a party confidence vote in 2018.
Mr. Johnson succeeded Mrs. May in July 2019 and then called a general election in which the Conservatives won their biggest majority since former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 election victory. The next general election is expected to be held in 2024 but could be earlier if Mr. Johnson uses his powers to call one. Meanwhile, the next tests for Mr. Johnson are by-elections to be held in Wakefield and in Tiverton & Honiton on the same day this month (June 2022), following the resignation of two Tory MPs.
Calls for PM to Consider Position
The Tory MPs who voted against Mr. Johnson were however insistent that the result compromised the Prime Minister’s ability to lead.
One of them, Julian Sturdy, said the result is “clear evidence that he no longer enjoys the full-hearted confidence of the parliamentary party and should consider his position”. Another, Sir Roger Gale, said the results were very bad and he would be surprised if Mr. Johnson will still be in post by the autumn.
But Mr. Johnson’s cabinet Ministers rallied around him with messages of support. Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, averred the Prime Minister secured “a fresh mandate” from the Conservative Party following his confidence vote win. In a tweet post, Mr. Javid noted that “Tonight the PM has secured a fresh mandate from the parliamentary party. Now we need to unite and focus on the country’s challenges”.
Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, who said he would back Mr. Johnson before the vote, said the PM won “handsomely”, adding that “I hope we can draw a line under this issue”. Highlighting Mr Johnson’s general election victory in 2019, Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, said it is “time to get back to the job of governing”.