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UK PM Boris Johnson rallies his Cabinet after narrow win

There is a widespread sense that although UK PM Boris Johnson won the confidence of 59 per cent of his MPs, the scale of the rebellion by 148 MPs has left Johnson politically wounded. 

PTI Reported by: PTI London Published on: June 07, 2022 16:36 IST
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his
Image Source : AP

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his Cabinet during his weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in London. 

A defiant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on Tuesday holding his first Cabinet meeting after a tense day of political intrigue, which ended in him securing a victory in a no-confidence ballot of his party members with a narrow margin as a major chunk of his MPs voted against him as the leader. Johnson is rallying his Cabinet ministers, who largely backed him quite publicly and even called upon the angry backbench members of Parliament leading the rebellion to line up behind his leadership for the greater good of the country.

The message from Downing Street was that Johnson will call on his ministers to drive forward progress on the government’s priorities of easing financial pressures on families, making access to the National Health Service (NHS) care quicker and easier and making the streets safer. “This is a government that delivers on what the people of this country care about most,” Johnson, 57, said in a statement from Downing Street on Tuesday.

“We have pledged 37 billion pounds to support households with their finances, made our communities safer through hiring 13,500 more police officers, and tackled the COVID backlogs in the NHS by opening nearly 100 Community Diagnostic Centres so people can access care closer to home," Johnson said. He added, "Today, I pledge to continue delivering on these priorities. We are on the side of hard-working British people, and we are going to get on with the job."

However, the party gate scandal of COVID law-breaking parties at Downing Street under Johnson’s watch as the catalyst behind Monday's vote is not expected to go away that easily. There is a widespread sense that although he won the confidence of 59 per cent of his MPs, the scale of the rebellion by 148 MPs has left Johnson politically wounded. “For Johnson, continuing to lead the party after such a revolt will prove to be unsustainable,” writes William Hague, a former Conservative Party leader, in ‘The Times’.

“Any leader who wins a vote on their leadership has that moment of relief that they have technically survived and the instant conviction that they have lived to fight another day. A win is a win, a small margin in a hard fight is surely enough," he said. He added, "That is true of being elected an MP or becoming party leader for the first time, with all the opportunities ahead to unite disappointed voters or defeated candidates around you. But it does not hold for an incumbent leader."

In another brewing development, the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs in charge of electing the party leader is believed to be contemplating a rule change so Johnson isn’t safe for a year from another leadership challenge under current norms. Tobias Ellwood, an MP who voted against the Prime Minister in Monday’s vote, said he understands the heads of the committee are now looking at altering the rules. "The system can be adjusted to mean the current rule of allowing a Prime Minister an entire year would be changed," Ellwood indicated.

"It's up to Number 10 [Downing Street] and the Prime Minister to act on his word that he's going to change things around and show that we have a chance of winning the general election," he said. The scale of Monday’s rebellion has undoubtedly shaken up Johnson, who delivered a thumping majority for the Conservative Party in the December 2019 general election.

But over two years later, his credibility has been hit to the extent that an internal 758-word memo entitled ‘Party Leadership’ had the Tory WhatsApp groups buzzing ahead of the confidence vote. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the memo appeared to sum up the feelings of party backbenchers who fear their vote winner is fast turning into a vote loser. “Boris Johnson is no longer an electoral asset and, if left in the post, will lead the party to a substantial defeat in 2024,” it read. It is believed the scathing report card on Johnson’s failures, including partygate and the “denials” of it in the House of Commons, helped sway many of the rebels who had been on the fence to vote against Johnson.

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

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