British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a “vote of no confidence” from his own party after at least 54 Conservative members of Parliament submitted letters claiming they no longer had faith in his ability to lead the country.
Sir Graham Brady announced the results after 359 members cast their votes deciding his fate. To remove Johnson from his role as leader of the party, 180 votes were needed. A total of 211 said they had confidence, while 148 said they did not. The vote also means that Johnson cannot face another vote of no confidence for a year.
Were Johnson to have lost the vote, it would have signaled the end of his reign as prime minister after he assumed power in 2019.
The vote comes after six months of scandals for Johnson. The party leader’s woes were exacerbated when it was discovered that members of the British government, under his leadership, broke COVID-19 protocols by hosting multiple gatherings and parties while the rest of the country was in lockdown. Johnson has denied that he knowingly broke protocols by allowing the parties. He has also denied accusations that he has lied to Parliament.
In a letter to his party before the vote, Johnson commented on the “Partygate” scandal but urged the party to put politics aside to focus on the British people.
“I know that over recent months I have come under a great deal of fire, and I know that experience has been painful for the whole party,” Johnson said in the letter. “Some of that criticism has perhaps been fair, some less so. Where there have been valid points, I have listened and learned and made significant changes. I will of course continue to listen and learn from colleagues about the improvements you wish to see. But I cannot stress too much that we have a golden chance to put this behind us now.”
The 148 votes against Johnson is worse than the 133 suffered by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018. Although she survived that vote, six months later, she was forced to resign, paving the way for Johnson.
The Scottish National Party criticized the Conservative Party for standing by Johnson and referred to the prime minister as a “lame duck.”
“Tory MPs should have drawn a line under Boris Johnson’s disastrous time as prime minister but instead they’ve bottled it — allowing this damaging circus to continue and leaving the Westminster government in crisis,” the party told the BBC. “The UK is now stuck in limbo with a lame duck prime minister who has lost the confidence of the public — and more than 40% of his own MPs — and is left limping around on borrowed time while the Tory party descends into bitter division.”
Labor leader Keir Starmer, who faces his own investigation into broken COVID-19 protocols, said Johnson is “utterly unfit for the great office that he holds” and that the Conservative MPs have ignored the public.
Johnson himself chose to adopt a different interpretation of the results.
“I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on to unite,” he said after the vote. “What it means is that as a government, we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people.”
It is true that public support for Johnson has been dwindling for months, and multiple party leaders have called for his resignation. Yet only 34% of Conservative voters would like to see him removed from office, according to CNN. Approximately 60% of the British public want Johnson to be removed from office, the same article said. However, with the war in Ukraine continuing in Europe, Johnson has placed his focus on aiding his ally, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Sir Roger Gale, a member of Johnson’s own party, said he has no confidence in Johnson and that the prime minister should step down.
“I have no confidence in the prime minister. I’ve said that very publicly. I can’t unsay that,” Gale told Sky News. “I fear we have a divided party. And divided parties don’t win elections. But this, for me, is not about winning the election. This is about the governance of the United Kingdom. That’s what really matters.”
With Johnson’s survival, the next step in the partygate scandal focuses on an investigative committee that will determine whether Johnson purposely lied or misled Parliament in his response to the scandal in December. If the investigation does conclude he purposely lied, he is expected to resign as per current government guidelines.
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