Johnson presses on despite rebellion

June 08, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:32 am IST - London

After winning no-trust vote with support of 211 MPs against 148, British PM vows to get on with the job

Under pressure:Boris Johnson during his weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.APLeon Neal

Under pressure:Boris Johnson during his weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.APLeon Neal

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the loyalty of his Cabinet and vowed to “get on with the job” on Tuesday after surviving a confidence vote of his Conservative MPs that has still left him severely weakened.

The beleaguered leader has insisted that Monday evening’s dramatic ballot, which saw 211 Tory party lawmakers support him remaining Prime Minister but 148 vote against, was a “conclusive” result.

“Thank you... everybody for all your good work yesterday, which was a very important day because we’re able now to draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about,” he told his team of two dozen or so top Ministers and officials. “We’re able to get on with talking about what I think the people in this country want us to, which is what we are doing to help them.”

But most critics and commentators disagreed, arguing that Mr. Johnson’s authority has been hugely undermined and his days in Downing Street are numbered.

The Times called him “a wounded victor” while his former employers at the Daily Telegraph branded it “a hollow victory that tears Tories apart”.

The vote — just over two years after the Brexit architect won a landslide general election victory — was brought after a string of scandals that have left the Conservative party’s standing in tatters.

Partygate scandal

Chief among them was the ‘Partygate’ controversy over lockdown-breaking events at Downing Street, which caused public outrage and saw him become the first serving U.K. Prime Minister to have broken the law.

Mr. Johnson, 57, needed the backing of 180 of the 359 Conservatives MPs to survive the vote. Defeat would have meant the end to his time as party leader and Prime Minister.

Most of Mr. Johnson’s cabinet publicly backed him in the secret ballot.

But more than 40% of the parliamentary party — and almost certainly a majority of backbenchers — did not, setting up potentially tougher times ahead for the government in Parliament.

Under current party rules the Prime Minister cannot be challenged again for a year, which leaves little time for any new leader to emerge before the next general election due by 2024.

In previous Tory confidence ballots, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May scored better than Mr. Johnson yet despite narrowly winning their votes, both ultimately resigned after deciding that their premierships were terminally damaged.

Mr. Johnson has steadfastly refused to resign over ‘Partygate’ and shows no sign of doing so now. “Today, I pledge to continue delivering... we are going to get on with the job,” he said before the cabinet meeting.

His Tories have lost several once-safe seats in byelections and scored dismally in recent local elections.

They are expected to lose two upcoming byelections later this month, including one in a previously rock-solid Conservative constituency. The smaller opposition Liberal Democrats urged Tory rebels to resign from their party and sit as independents while Mr. Johnson remained leader. However, Conservative MPs who voted against him were highly unlikely to take up the suggestion and appeared to be biding their time.

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