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UK PM Boris Johnson wins Tory party no-confidence vote over partygate scandal

The vote followed weeks of disquiet within the ruling Conservative Party, with several members of Parliament and former ministers voicing their concerns over the partygate scandal of illegal gatherings at Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which they feel has damaged the party’s credibility in the eyes of the voters.

Shashwat Bhandari Edited by: Shashwat Bhandari @ShashBhandari New Delhi Updated on: June 07, 2022 2:31 IST
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Image Source : AP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Highlights

  • British Prime Minister survived the no-confidence vote over partygate scandal
  • The vote was held as a secret ballot, with 180 being the cut off for Johnson to win
  • Frontrunner in the backbench rebellion was former UK Foreign and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Boris Johnson No-Confidence Vote: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won the no-confidence vote on Monday as he secured enough support in his party to remain in office despite a rebellion that will likely cast a shadow over his future.

UK’s embattled PM faced the trust vote days after more details of the partygate scandal at Downing Street had emerged.

Earlier, Sir Graham Brady, who is in-charge of collating the letters of no-confidence received by the 1922 Committee, said the threshold of 15 per cent of the Tory parliamentary party, or 54 MPs, seeking such a vote was met.

The vote followed weeks of disquiet within the ruling Conservative Party, with several members of Parliament and former ministers voicing their concerns over the partygate scandal of illegal gatherings at Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which they feel has damaged the party’s credibility in the eyes of the voters.

"The threshold of 15 per cent of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded,” Graham Brady said in a statement earlier.

It rounded off a frenzied day of political high drama and speculation as Johnson, 57, made personal pleas to his party backbenchers to keep their faith in him as Prime Minister, despite the bruising partygate scandal of COVID law-breaking parties at Downing Street and across government offices. 

The vote is held as a secret ballot, with 180 being the cut off for Johnson to win the challenge – given the halfway mark of the Tory parliamentary party membership of 359 if abstentions are not taken into account. 

His allies had been keen to stress that a victory in the contest, even by just one vote, would put a rest to an issue that has overshadowed the government’s focus on other pressing political concerns. 

"Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities," the Downing Street said in a statement. 

"The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force," it said. 

The ballot came as Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs, declared that he had received the requisite 54 letters of no-confidence to trigger the vote. 

Under the current Conservative Party rules, Johnson is now safe from a backbench challenge for at least 12 months. 

But the political consensus is that he is by no means home safe, with two important by-elections looming on June 23 and a big defeat in those could be taken as a public referendum against his leadership and keep the discontent on the backbenches alive.

Johnson safe for now, but clock still ticking 

In many ways, the clock is still ticking on Johnson’s leadership as his hold on the party has been visibly shaken. 

In the case of Johnson's predecessor at Downing Street, Theresa May, a victory in a no-confidence vote back in 2018 did not prevent her forced exit a few months later to make way for him. 

While backbench anger has grown since Sue Gray published her official report into lockdown parties within government offices last month, the Cabinet had largely rallied to the PM's side – including Indian-origin Chancellor and potential frontrunner for the top job Rishi Sunak. 

Ahead of the vote, Johnson wrote to his backbenchers to drum up their support and also addressed them privately a few hours before the ballot took place. 

The frontrunner in the backbench rebellion was former UK Foreign and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who had called on the party to vote for change in the secret ballot. 

But for now, Johnson has been successful in holding on to his position as party leader and UK Prime Minister.

(With inputs from PTI)

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