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06th Jun 2022

Boris Johnson has survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership

Ava Evans

By the skin of his teeth

Boris Johnson has survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership, meaning he will continue on as Prime Minister and party leader.

Voting in a secret ballot, MPs have decided 211-148 to keep Johnson in place following weeks of political turmoil surrounding the partygate scandal.

The process had been triggered after more than 54 MPs, or 15 per cent of the parliamentary party, sent letters to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Tory backbench 1922 committee.

It means the Prime Minister is safe from a future leadership challenge for the next 12 months, although some Tories have suggested that the rules could be changed to allow another vote within that period.

Prior to the vote, in a letter to Tory MPs, Johnson said he hoped this would be a chance to “end media speculation and take this country forward”.

Earlier on Monday evening, Johnson made a last-ditch plea for support during an appearance with Conservative MPs. He told party members that unseating him would be to “dance to the tune of the media” and plunge the Conservatives into a civil war.

During a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, Johnson told MPs that his removal was the one route to a Labour election victory and argued that there was no clear alternative to his leadership.

“The only way we can let that happen is if we were so foolish as to descend into some pointless, fratricidal debate about the future of the party, when frankly there is no alternative vision that I am hearing,” he said.

Speaking alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Johnson promised tax cuts – in a bid to incentivise his blue-wall MPs.

“Let us refuse to dance to the tune of the media, let us refuse to gratify our opponents by turning in on ourselves,”

Before voting began, only 141 MPs – including most of the Cabinet – publicly said they would back Boris Johnson, a total of 180 was needed to secure his leadership.

Significant interventions were made by leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and Brexit hard-man Steve Baker, who all said they could no longer support the PM.

“Tonight we have the chance to end the media-driven focus on the leadership of the Conservative party,” he said.

“If you give me your support tonight, we have the chance to stop talking about ourselves and start talking exclusively about what we are doing for the people of this country.”

While Johnson will be hoping to draw a line in the sand, some MPs believe his leadership cannot continue – in spite of tonight’s victory.

On Monday afternoon, Tory infighting broke out into the open after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries ripped into Jeremy Hunt for revealing he planned to vote against the PM.

Hunt, who finished second to Boris Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, warned Conservative MPs that the party would lose the next general election under the current leadership.

Writing on Twitter he said the Tories were failing to offer the British people “the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country”.

The intervention came after the government’s own “anti-corruption champion”, MP John Penrose, resigned his post – citing a “fundamental breach of the ministerial code” by the PM.

In a blistering letter made public on Monday morning, the MP for Weston-super-Mare said “I’m sorry to have to resign as the PM’s Anti-Corruption Tsar but, after his reply last week about the Ministerial Code, it’s pretty clear he has broken it.

“That’s a resigning matter for me, and it should be for the PM too.”

On Tuesday, MPs are set to vote on a Labour motion to “clean up” British politics following Boris Johnson’s controversial re-writing of the Ministerial Code that would reduce the potential sanctions for ministers who break rules

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said that Johnson had “downgraded, debased and demeaned standards in public life,” arguing that intervention was needed from an independent body to uphold the standards of public life.

“He has sunk into the gutter but it’s now up to Conservative MPs to do the decent thing,” she said.

“This Prime Minister’s own anti-corruption tsar walked out on him over his blatant breach of the rules, in the wake of stinging criticism from his top ethics advisers.

“There is no one and nothing he won’t drag down in his desperation to cling onto power.”

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