British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face a no-confidence vote later on Monday that could oust him from power, as discontent with his rule finally threatens to topple a politician who has often seemed invincible despite many scandals.
The leader renowned for his ability to connect with voters has recently struggled to turn the page on revelations that he and his staff repeatedly held boozy parties that flouted the COVID-19 restrictions they imposed on others.
Still, with no clear front-runner to succeed Mr. Johnson, most political observers think he will defeat the challenge and remain Prime Minister. But the fact that enough lawmakers are demanding a vote represents a watershed moment for him — and a narrow victory would leave him a hobbled leader whose days are likely numbered. It is also a sign of deep Conservative divisions, less than three years after Mr. Johnson led the party to its biggest election victory in decades.
Since then, Mr. Johnson has led Britain out of the EU and through a pandemic, both of which have shaken the U.K. socially and economically. The vote comes as Mr. Johnson's government is under intense pressure to ease the pain of skyrocketing energy and food bills.
Conservative Party official Graham Brady announced on Monday that he had received letters calling for a no-confidence vote from at least 54 Tory legislators, enough to trigger the measure under party rules. He said the vote would take place in the House of Commons on Monday evening, with the result announced soon after.
To remain in office, Mr. Johnson needs to win the backing of a majority of the 359 Conservative lawmakers. If he doesn't, the party will choose a new leader, who will also become Prime Minister.
Mr. Johnson's Downing Street office said the Prime Minister welcomed the vote as “a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities”.
Discontent that has been building for months erupted after a 10-day parliamentary break that included a long weekend of celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. For many, the four-day holiday was a chance to relax — but there was no respite for Mr. Johnson, who was booed by some onlookers as he arrived for a service in the Queen’s honour at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.
Mr. Brady said some lawmakers who submitted no-confidence letters had asked for them to be held back until after the jubilee weekend.
Previous Prime Ministers who survived no-confidence votes emerged severely weakened. Theresa May, for instance, won one in 2018 but never regained her authority and resigned within months, sparking a leadership contest that was won by Mr. Johnson.
A growing number of Conservatives feel that Mr. Johnson is now a liability, after the ‘partygate’ scandal.