The prime minister has survived, but may never recover
British prime minister Boris Johnson has survived a vote of confidence among MPs from his own party, but more than a third voted against him.
The confidence vote was called after social events were held at government offices at Downing Street during Coronavirus lockdowns.
All 359 Conservative MPs took part in the vote, and while 211 voted in favour of confidence, there were 148 votes against the prime minister.
Responding to the vote, the prime minister said, “I think it’s a convincing result, a decisive result and what it means is as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people.”
However, what it actually means is this could be the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson’s political career, as the result of the vote could deal a significant blow to his authority.
Veteran Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, one of the anti-Johnson rebels, told the BBC: “It is severely damaging for him and his reputation, I would be surprised if this prime minister is still in Number 10 Downing Street by the end of the autumn.”
If the recent past is any guide, this could be true. Former Conservative leaders who survived votes of no confidence – and survived with more votes than Boris Johnson – Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, failed to recover their positions of popularity. Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher resigned after surviving the vote and John Major was defeated at the general election in 1997.
Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer condemned the Conservatives for supporting Boris Johnson, saying, “The Conservative party now believes that good government, focused on improving lives, is too much to ask.
“The Conservative government now believes that breaking the law is no impediment to making the law. The Conservative party now believes that the British public has no right to expect honest politicians.”
The next challenge for the prime minister is the upcoming by-election, which will see new MPs voted for in Wakefield in Yorkshire and Tiverton & Honiton in Devon on 23 June. If the Conservative party loses, this will indicate they have problems across the country.
The question that also remains to be answered is: How do you govern when so many people on your own side think they would be better off with a different leader?