Boris Johnson Faces Leadership Vote Over Lockdown Parties
BFollowing a number of scandals including being the first sitting prime minster to be accused of violating the law, oris Johnson will have to face a leadership election in his Conservative Party.
Senior Tory MP Graham Brady said in a televised statement the threshold of at least 54 MPs—15% of the Conservative total—has been met to trigger a confidence vote in Johnson. Brady stated that the vote will be held for approximately two hours starting at 6 p.m. and conclude shortly thereafter.
Pressure on the British prime minister has been building over “partygate,” the media nickname for the illegal events in Downing Street during the pandemic for which Johnson received a police fine. This scandal added to frustration in Tory MPs after a series U-turns and errors that led to the party falling in polls.
Johnson is hurt by so many MPs losing confidence in him. Johnson was the Conservative Party’s biggest win since 1983, when it won its most significant general election in three decades. Johnson said that it was not a guarantee that Johnson will be elected, but that the vote would end his reign as premier.
“Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities,” a spokesperson for Johnson’s office said in a statement.
His cabinet members, which includes Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as well as Health Secretary Sajid Javid, stated that Johnson is supported on Monday.
“The prime minister will stand and fight his corner with a very, very strong case,” Javid told Sky News on Monday, before Brady’s announcement. “So let’s just wait and see what happens.”
Ousting him requires a majority of the party’s 359 MPs, with any abstentions altering the math. Several factors may work in the prime minister’s favor, including the large number of MPs on the government’s payroll and the lack of obvious successors for the party to rally around. Under party rules, Johnson would not be eligible for another vote if he wins the secret ballot.
However, history has demonstrated that prime ministers often suffer from weakness even when they win because of the extent of the opposition. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was forced out by other means just months after winning a confidence vote as the Tory party tore itself apart over Brexit.
On Monday, former minister Jesse Norman published a letter excoriating Johnson, accusing him of “lacking a sense of mission.”
In recent days, the push to remove him seems to be gaining momentum. Many Tory MPs will likely have been subject to fury from their constituents as well as local party organizations. They return to Westminster on Monday after a long holiday weekend to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, having seen Johnson booed by crowds at an event on Friday.
It was a reminder that as well as being fined himself over partygate, Johnson was also forced to apologize to the Queen over an event held in Downing Street—which he didn’t attend—on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
Recent polling has suggested that Johnson may cost the Conservatives 2024 general election. This is despite the fact that the party faces defeat in Wakefield’s special election on June 23. The seat is among the historically Labour-voting districts in northern England—the so-called Red Wall—that helped deliver a huge House of Commons majority for the Tories in 2019. J.L. Partners put Labour ahead by 20 points.
It is also in danger of being humiliated by a separate party by-election, which will be held in Tiverton/Honiton in southwest England the same day. The Liberal Democrats are the favourites to win the Conservative stronghold, according to bookmakers. The Tory MPs who resigned over separate sex-related scandals led to both votes.
Uncertainty over Johnson’s future comes at a vulnerable time for the U.K., with the economic fallout from Brexit and the pandemic leaving consumers facing the worst squeeze on living standards since the 1950s.
The cost-of-living crisis has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which earlier this year appeared to have saved Johnson from facing a confidence vote as the crisis shifted the focus of Tory MPs. Johnson must now fight to save his premiership, thanks to the gradual addition of Tories to the rebel ranks.
—With assistance from Ellen Milligan.
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