Result highlights divisions within the Conservative Party as elections near
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson could face another challenge to his leadership sooner rather than later, despite surviving a vote of no confidence from Parliamentary members of his own Conservative Party on Monday.
The vote was triggered after the number of letters of no confidence in his leadership submitted by Conservative MPs passed the required total.
Johnson won by a margin of 211 votes to 148, and called it an “extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result” that would allow him to “move on to unite and focus on delivery”.
Under the current rules, he cannot face another challenge for 12 months, but 41 percent of Conservative MPs voting to get rid of him has revealed the extent of divisions within the party, with his handling of the “partygate” scandal having brought a number of areas of disagreement to a head.
There are two by-elections coming up in Conservative-held seats this month, which could do more damage, and Tobias Ellwood, member of Parliament and one of Johnson’s most vocal critics, told Sky News that he believed a potential rule change was being looked at to allow another challenge sooner than currently permitted.
Despite voting against Johnson, however, he said he would recognize the result and “give the prime minister time to improve”.
“But, methods can be made, the system can be adjusted to mean the current rule of allowing a prime minister an entire year (free from challenges) would be changed,” he continued.
“It’s up to (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.”
Surviving a vote of no confidence is no guarantee of a long-term future, with previous prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May both having left office shortly after winning votes but having seen their authority fatally damaged.
Writing in the Times newspaper, former Conservative leader William Hague said Johnson’s premiership had suffered the same fate and he should step aside, for the greater good of the party and the country.
“Words have been said that cannot be retracted, reports published that cannot be erased, and votes have been cast that show a greater level of rejection than any Tory leader has ever endured and survived,” he said.
“Deep inside, he should recognize that, and turn his mind to getting out in a way that spares party and country such agonies and uncertainties.”
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has kept a low profile since being beaten by Johnson in the race to become Conservative leader in 2019, was one of the most prominent MPs to call for Johnson to go, which led to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a staunch Johnson supporter, to make a very public attack on him, accusing him of inadequate pandemic preparation when he was in office.
“Your handling of the pandemic would have been a disaster,” she tweeted. “Your pandemic preparation during six years as health secretary was found wanting and inadequate.”