After months of speculation, a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership was triggered by the Conservative Party. 15% of the 359 membered parliamentary Conservative Party had to submit a confidence letter to Sir Graham Brady, of the 1922 Backbench Committee for such a vote to take place. The threshold was reached in the last week or so and the vote was held off until after Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Impact‘s Felix Hawes reports on a contentious week in Westminster.
Boris Johnson survived the Confidence motion against him on Monday 6th June, securing the support of 59% of his colleagues. This is weaker than Theresa May, who got 63% support in her 2018 confidence motion. Jacob Rees-Mogg called on her to resign for losing so much support but has remained faithful to Boris this time. Johnson may have survived, but he is now weak. May was gone within six months of winning hers and Major and Thatcher were also out of office not long after winning their confidence motions.
However, Boris is known for breaking political norms. He has won in places that Conservatives have historically done badly, such as London and the once industrial Northern heartlands. It is thus unknown what the future holds for him, but the upcoming by-elections in both a red wall seat of Wakefield and blue wall seat of Tiverton and Honiton are both expected to go badly for the Conservatives.
Those calling for Boris Johnson to stay and to go are varied from across the Conservative’s broad church. The individuals calling for his resignation include arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, arch-remainer Stephen Hammond, lockdown skeptic Mark Harper, lockdown hawk Jeremy Hunt, darling of the party right David Davis, the party’s centrist-in-chief Tobias Ellwood, Red Wall supremo Dehenna Davison and Blue Wall newcomer Elliot Colburn. The disunity of beliefs amongst his colleagues has meant there is no united candidate to replace Boris, and it also shows the growing tensions of the Conservative Coalition.
The vote of confidence has caused the party’s tensions to become public. Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, openly criticised Jeremy Hunt for his tenure as health secretary. The reasons for calling for Boris to go unsurprisingly vary amongst his critics.
The 1922 committee’s rules state that a vote can take place only once a year
The excessive lockdown parties are the primary reason, but Johnson’s critics have also cited his lack of deregulation post-Brexit, higher taxes, the Rwanda immigration scheme and the U-turn on banning conversation therapy for trans-people. Many of the Scottish Conservatives, including their leader, Douglas Ross, are also concerned that his policies are undermining the Union.
For now, Boris Johnson is safe. The 1922 committee’s rules state that a vote can take place only once a year. However, there are already talks of changing the mechanisms to six months instead.
Although many of Johnson’s MPs are unhappy that he is gone, President Zelensky of Ukraine has congratulated Johnson on his survival, stating of his relief that Ukraine was not losing a great friend calling Johnson’s victory “great news”. This is testament that politics moves on and partygate is a distraction from real-world issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis.
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