British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a no-confidence vote among Conservative MPs on Monday, after dozens rebelled over a string of scandals that have left the party’s public standing in tatters.
In a secret ballot, a total of 211 out of 359 MPs voted in favour of the Prime Minister against 148 who voted against – 32 shy of what was needed to remove Johnson. The beleaguered leader spent months battling to maintain his grip on power after the “Partygate” controversy saw him become the first serving UK prime minister to have broken the law.
Johnson, 57, won a landslide election victory in December 2019 on a vow to “get Brexit done”. He needed the backing of 180 MPs to survive Monday’s vote: a majority of one out of the 359 sitting Conservatives.
Had he lost, he would have had to step down as party leader but could stay on as prime minister pending an internal leadership election. In previous Tory ballots, predecessors Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May both ultimately resigned despite narrowly winning their own votes, deciding that their premierships were terminally damaged. The ballot opened at a parliamentary committee room at 1700 GMT. May voted in a ballgown. A sombre-looking Johnson said nothing as he arrived and left. The poll ended at 1900 GMT.
Johnson earlier defended his record on delivering Brexit, fighting the COVID pandemic and Britain’s hawkish support for Ukraine against Russia.
“This is not the moment for a leisurely and entirely unforced domestic political drama and months and months of vacillation from the UK,” he told Tory MPs, according to a senior party source. “We have been through bumpy times before and I can rebuild trust,” the prime minister told his parliamentary rank and file, according to the source, adding: “The best is yet to come.”
Supporters could be heard cheering and thumping their tables in approval. The source said Johnson had indicated tax cuts could be in the offing as Britain contends with its worst inflation crisis in generations.
But the scale of Tory disunity was exposed in a blistering resignation letter from Johnson’s “anti-corruption champion” John Penrose and another letter of protest from long-time ally Jesse Norman. The prime minister’s rebuttals over “Partygate” were “grotesque”, Norman wrote, warning that the Tories risked losing the next general election, which is due by 2024.
Ex-cabinet member Jeremy Hunt, who lost to Johnson in the last leadership contest in 2019 and is expected to run again if Johnson is deposed, confirmed he would vote against him. “Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve,” Hunt tweeted.