British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to face confidence vote today


Britain’s governing Conservatives will hold a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday that could oust him as Britain’s leader.

Party official Graham Brady says he has received enough letters from lawmakers demanding a vote on Johnson’s leadership to trigger one. That happens if 54 Tory lawmakers — 15 per cent of the party’s group in the House of Commons — write to Brady.

“The threshold of 15 per cent has been passed,” Brady said. He said the vote would take place in person in the House of Commons on Monday evening. The prime minister’s spokesperson said Johnson will address the party ahead of the vote in the afternoon.

If Johnson loses a majority vote among the 359 Conservative lawmakers, he will be replaced as Conservative leader and prime minister. If he wins, he can’t face another challenge for a year, though a narrow victory could weaken his leadership.

Johnson has been struggling to turn a page on months of ethics scandals, most notably over rule-breaking parties in government buildings during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Culture of rule-breaking: report

Johnson’s Downing Street office said the prime minister welcomed the vote.

“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,” it said.

Late last month an investigator’s report on what has become known as “partygate” slammed a culture of rule-breaking inside the prime minister’s No. 10 Downing St. office.

Civil service investigator Sue Gray described alcohol-fuelled bashes held by Downing Street staff members in 2020 and 2021, when pandemic restrictions prevented U.K. residents from socializing or even visiting dying relatives.

Gray said the “senior leadership team” must bear responsibility for “failures of leadership and judgment.”

Johnson also was fined 50 pounds ($78 CDN) by police for attending one party, making him the first prime minister sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.

The prime minister said he was “humbled” and took “full responsibility” — but insisted it was now time to “move on” and focus on Britain’s battered economy and the war in Ukraine.

Johnson arrives to attend the Platinum Jubilee Pageant marking the end of the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, in London, on Sunday. (Aaron Chown/Reuters)

But a growing number of Conservatives feel that Johnson, the charismatic leader who won them a huge parliamentary majority in 2019, is now a liability.

Lawmaker Jesse Norman, a longtime Johnson supporter, said the prime minister had “presided over a culture of casual law-breaking” and had left the government “adrift and distracted.”

“I am afraid I can see no circumstances in which I could serve in a government led by you,” Norman wrote in a letter published on social media.

Jeremy Hunt, the final candidate for the Conservative leadership who Johnson defeated in mid-2019, agreed a change was now necessary, though he said he had hoped the question wouldn’t be broached with the war in Ukraine ongoing.

“We are not offering the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country,” he said in a series of tweets. “And because we are no longer trusted by the electorate, who know this too, we are set to lose the next general election.”

The Conservatives suffered disappointing results last month in local elections, particularly in the London area and southern England. A pair of national by-elections this month are also expected to be challenging for the party.

Such a review is not unprecedented.

Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in 2018 but never regained authority and resigned months later, leading to the leadership contest won by Johnson. Decades earlier, Margaret Thatcher’s long tenure as prime minister came to an end in late 1990, not long after a leadership challenge was triggered.

Minister says toppling PM would be ‘indefensible’

If Johnson is ousted it would spark a Conservative leadership contest, in which several prominent government ministers are likely to run.

Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale, a Johnson critic, told the BBC that “we have some very good alternatives to the prime minister so we’re not short of choice.

“Any single one of those people in my view would make a better prime minister than the one that we’ve got at the moment.”

Discontent seems to have come to a head over a parliamentary break that coincided with celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. For many, the four-day long weekend was a chance to relax — but there was no respite for Johnson, who was booed by some onlookers as he arrived for a service in the Queen’s honour at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.

But Cabinet minister Steve Barclay, a Johnson ally, said toppling the leader now would be “indefensible.”

“The problems we face aren’t easy to solve,” he wrote on the Conservative Home website. “Democracies around the world are all currently facing similar challenges. But under Boris Johnson’s leadership, our plan for jobs shows how we are navigating through these global challenges.

“To disrupt that progress now would be inexcusable to many who lent their vote to us for the first time at the last general election, and who want to see our prime minister deliver the changes promised for their communities.”

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