Boris Johnson wounded as 148 Tory MPs vote against his leadership

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Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader (PA) (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader (PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson insisted he had secured a “decisive” victory despite a confidence vote which saw 148 of his own MPs try to oust him.

Tory MPs voted by 211 to 148 in support of the Prime Minister but the scale of the revolt against his leadership leaves him wounded.

When Theresa May faced a confidence vote in 2018 she secured the support of 63% of her MPs but was still forced out within six months.

Mr Johnson saw 41% of his MPs vote against him, a worse result than Mrs May.

But the Prime Minister told reporters in Downing Street: “I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

He rejected the assertion that he was now a lame duck prime minister who needed to call a snap election to secure a new mandate from the public, insisting he was focused on the public’s priorities.

The scale of the revolt against Mr Johnson’s leadership has left him vulnerable, and he could suffer further blows in two key by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton on June 23.

But he was bullish as he told reporters that he had secured a “very good result for politics and for the country”.

The ballot was triggered after at least 54 MPs – 15% of the party’s representatives in the Commons – formally indicated they had no confidence in the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister made a last-ditch plea to Tory MPs to back him ahead of Monday’s vote, promising future tax cuts and highlighting his own record of electoral success.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

But with concern over the partygate scandal, economic policy, drifting opinion polls and Mr Johnson’s style of leadership, the Prime Minister was unable to win round four in 10 of his MPs.

He told a private meeting of Tory MPs that “under my leadership” the party had won its biggest electoral victory in 40 years, and pledged that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would say more about tax cuts in the coming weeks.

He warned Tory MPs against a “pointless fratricidal debate” that could ultimately allow Sir Keir Starmer into No 10.

He told Tory MPs “I understand the anxieties of people who have triggered this vote” but “I humbly submit to you that this is not the moment for a leisurely and entirely unforced domestic political drama”.

He added: “The way out now is to drive supply-side reform on Conservative principles and to cut taxes.”

The Prime Minister was informed on Sunday afternoon that he would face the vote after Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, confirmed he had received the letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger the ballot.

A steady stream of Tory MPs called publicly for the Prime Minister to stand down in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into breaches of the Covid regulations in No 10 and Whitehall.

But Tory concerns go far wider, covering policies which have seen the tax burden reach the highest in 70 years, and unease about Mr Johnson’s style of politics.

During a dramatic day in Westminster Mr Johnson received the resignation of his anti-corruption tsar, John Penrose, who said the Prime Minister had breached the ministerial code over the partygate scandal and should quit.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said he would be voting against Mr Johnson, having heard “loud and clear the anger at the breaking of Covid rules”.

Ex-foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who stood against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, warned that the Tories would lose the next general election if the Prime Minister is allowed to remain in post.

“Having been trusted with power, Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve,” he said.

Former minister Jesse Norman, who had been a long-standing supporter of Mr Johnson, published a scathing letter to the Prime Minister, saying the Gray report showed Mr Johnson “presided over a culture of casual law-breaking at 10 Downing Street”.

But his criticism of Mr Johnson also included the “ugly” policy of sending migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda, the “unnecessary and provocative” privatisation of Channel 4, the ban on noisy protests which “no genuinely Conservative government” should have introduced, and the lack of a “sense of mission” in his administration.

Allies of Mr Johnson insisted the victory for Mr Johnson should draw a line under the question of his leadership.

Potential leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak backed Mr Johnson following the vote.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss said: “Pleased that colleagues have backed the Prime Minister. I support him 100%. Now’s the time to get on with the job.”

Chancellor Mr Sunak said: “The PM has won the confidence vote and now it’s time to move forward.”

But Labour leader Sir Keir said Mr Johnson was “utterly unfit for the great office he holds”.

“Conservative MPs made their choice,” Sir Keir said.

“They have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and all he represents.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey looked ahead to the by-election in Tiverton and Honiton, where his party hopes to overturn a comfortable Tory majority.

“Johnson is teetering on the brink,” Sir Ed said.

“He is too cowardly to resign, the people of Tiverton and Honiton will speak for Britain in giving their verdict on Boris Johnson in two weeks time.”

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