Vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership begins

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is hours away from finding out if he will remain Prime Minister (Image: Reuters)

A vote is underway on whether Boris Johnson will remain Prime Minister.

After months of scandal and growing unrest in the back benches, the threshold for the number of Tory MPs calling for a change in leadership was reached last night.

That means nearly two and a half years after he redrawn the political map and won a landslide general election victory, the end of Johnson could be just hours away.

Since the Sue Gray report was released on May 25, a steady stream of backbenchers have made their dissatisfaction public.

Today they have been joined by high-profile figures including ex-Johnson loyalist Jesse Norman and former hopeful Jeremy Hunt.

The scathing investigation into lockdown violations at Number 10 found the Prime Minister oversaw a culture of drinking and rule-breaking, leading to Downing Street becoming the most-fined address in the country.

Mr Johnson himself was fined for breaking his own rules and a small minority of Tory MPs called for a vote of confidence before the report was published.

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The Prime Minister had hoped that one day of orchestrated apologies – to the Commons, the country and his party – would be enough to draw a line under the affair, but amid an inquiry into whether he deliberately misled Parliament, still ongoing, some conservatives have decided that enough is enough.

With half a parliamentary term remaining before a general election must be called, some on the Tory benches will no doubt be startled by recent polls showing a clear lead for Labour, forecasting battlefield seat wipe-out and widespread anger over confirm the party gate.

If he loses, Britain will have its fourth prime minister in just six years and the opposition is likely to call for snap general elections.

Should he win, he may reshuffle his cabinet next week to underscore his authority.

Under Conservative Party rules, a vote of confidence in leadership takes place when 15% of their MPs – in this Parliament, the golden number is 54 – send letters to the 1922 Committee.

06/06/2022. London, United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from his office at 10 Downing Street. Photograph by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Number 10 released images of the Prime Minister speaking to his Ukrainian counterpart this morning (Image: Downing Street)

The influential body of backbenchers, chaired by Sir Graham Brady, keeps a private record and facilitates an anonymous vote of confidence once the threshold is met.

Several Tories have publicly acknowledged submitting letters, many of them several months ago, but the 1922 Committee is under no obligation to disclose who called the vote.

Mr Johnson has vowed to keep fighting, calling the vote a chance to “end the media’s pet obsession” and appealing directly to his own party to get the 180 votes he needs to hold out.

Should he win narrowly, it’s unclear at what stage he might conclude he’s lost too much support within his own party to continue in the role.

Mr Johnson could theoretically win the vote with a handful of ballots but continues to face calls for his resignation over damage to his authority.

Theresa May won a confidence vote forced by Tory rebels in December 2018 but was never able to regain her position in her party and continued to hobble for six months before announcing her intention to step down.

Should Mr Johnson lose the vote of confidence, the Tories will choose a new leader in a race he is barred from entering.

Under the rules of the 1922 committee, no further vote of confidence can be called within 12 months.

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Justin Scacco

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