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'Not interested in snap elections': Boris Johnson welcomes support of MPs after confidence vote

Boris Johnson had warned Tory MPs against a “pointless fratricidal debate” about the party’s future.

Updated Jun 6th 2022, 8:00 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has won a confidence vote on his leadership.

Votes were counted in the last few hours following the secret ballot of the 359 Tory MPs. Those party members voted by 211 to 148 in the secret ballot in Westminster, Conservative 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady announced shortly after 9pm.

Speaking this evening, Johnson said this was “a very good result”. He urged the British Government to now move on after a “convincing” and “decisive” result in the vote of confidence.

Boris Johnson said he is “certainly not interested in snap elections” after he won the vote.

Under pressure

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

Johnson had issued a late plea to his MPs to support him, warning that “pointless” internal warfare could see them turfed out of office.

The British Prime Minister had earlier promised future tax cuts and highlighted his own record of electoral success as he sought to win over wavering MPs.

But with concern over the partygate scandal, economic policy, drifting opinion polls and Mr Johnson’s style of leadership, he had faced a difficult task to persuade his doubters.

Mr Johnson wrote to Tory MPs and addressed them at a private meeting in Westminster in the hours before voting began.

He told the meeting that “under my leadership” the party had won its biggest electoral victory in 40 years, and pledged future tax cuts, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak expected to say more in the coming weeks.

He warned them that Tory splits risked the “utter disaster” of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour entering Downing Street, propped up by the SNP.

Reacting to the vote this evening, Starmer said this was an indication of a divided Tory party:

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said Boris Johnson is a “failing Prime Minister” who “cannot be propped up any longer”.

 

The British Prime Minister’s victory in today’s confidence vote does not mean the end of Boris Johnson’s problems.

While Conservative Party rules mean he is safe from a confidence vote for another year, Mr Johnson still faces a daunting list of challenges demanding his attention.

Tory split

First on the list will be mending his own divided party. A confidence vote is never a good thing for a leader and the 148 votes against him means he now faces an internal opposition that is difficult to ignore.

While it is possible this might translate to more backbench rebellions, the biggest problem is that Mr Johnson’s authority is now seriously dented and he may struggle to push through parts of his agenda should he encounter cabinet opposition.

The suggestion that Mr Johnson could carry out a reshuffle could present further problems. It may be difficult for the Prime Minister to promote those who supported him without making more enemies by sacking those already in Government.

Away from Mr Johnson’s internal party problems, the cost-of-living crisis continues to present the chief policy challenge facing the Prime Minister.

In the short term, inflation is set to continue rising and further support from the Treasury may become necessary over the winter, while a “reasonable worst case scenario” could include blackouts for millions of homes.

Everyday issues

In the longer term, the Government faces ongoing difficulties thanks to poor productivity growth and sluggish economic expansion overall. Getting the economy growing again is a subject that consumes both the Government and centre-right think tanks, and could be key to the Chancellor keeping his promise of cutting income tax in 2024.

Added to this is the challenge of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In foreign policy, the war in Ukraine and attempts to counter Russian influence in the UK are a key priority, but the Government is also headed for a renewed row with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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Finally, this evening’s vote does not draw a line under the Partygate scandal as the House of Commons Privileges Committee is still conducting an investigation into whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled Parliament when he said there had been no parties in Downing Street.

If the committee finds that he did mislead the House, there will be renewed calls for the Prime Minister’s resignation and it is possible the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers could change its rules to allow another confidence vote within a year of today’s ballot.

Whether in foreign policy, domestic policy or within his own party, Mr Johnson faces an array of challenges from which Monday evening’s victory provides only temporary respite.

With additional reporting by Brianna Parkins & Laura Byrne.

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