British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a vote of no confidence on Monday evening provoked by a revolt from his Conservative Party after the “partygate” scandal.
Two and a half years after his triumphant victory at the polls, the increasingly challenged 57-year-old leader has once again demonstrated his ability to get out of the most perilous situations. But he remains bogged down in the “partygate” affair, the very drunken parties organized in Downing Street during the confinements, and Monday’s vote showed the deep divisions within the Conservative party. It should leave traces.
Of the 359 Conservative MPs who voted, 211 voted in favor of the former mayor of London, against 148 who wanted to oust him, a considerable group of rebels likely to paralyze government action.
He hailed a “convincing result” which allows “to move on”.
Refusal to resign
At the end of 2018, Theresa May had survived a motion of no confidence with a wider margin than her successor, before resigning a few months later, too weakened to lead. Boris Johnson has so far totally refused to step down.
After weeks of speculation, events rushed on Monday morning, barely closing the festive parenthesis of the celebrations of the 70 years of the reign of Elizabeth II. Conservative Party 1922 Committee Chairman Graham Brady announced that the fateful threshold of 54 letters from MPs, or 15% of the parliamentary group, calling for Boris Johnson to leave had been reached, triggering the vote.
In the event of defeat, an internal election would have been called to designate a new leader of the party, who would have become head of government, in a delicate context of the war in Ukraine and inflation at its highest in 40 years.
Victorious, he cannot be targeted by another motion of no confidence for a year, according to the current rules.
Pleading his case to his troops before the vote, Boris Johnson had urged them to end a saga he said was only of interest to the media to “speak exclusively about what we are doing for the people of this country”, according to a government official. Conservative party.
Addressing their Thatcherite streak, he had dangled tax cuts and cuts in the administration, contrasting with the massive public interventions of recent years in favor of the pandemic, or more recently of the crisis in the cost of living.
“The time has come to recognize that sometimes the government cannot do everything,” he said.
These explanations, and the efforts made all day by his most loyal ministers on television, are far from having convinced everyone.
After former minister Jeremy Hunt, seen as a possible successor, Tory leader in Scotland Douglas Ross announced he would vote against Mr. Johnson, citing public “anger” over breaches of Covid rules.
Booed during the jubilee
Despite the accumulation of scandals and the anger of the public and his majority, Boris Johnson has maintained himself in recent months by highlighting in particular his leading role in the Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He was also helped by the lack of a clear successor in the ranks of the Conservatives, who have been in power for 12 years in the UK, especially since the star of Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, long a darling of the party, abruptly tarnished due to his wealth and his wife’s tax arrangements, in times of the rising cost of living.
Mr. Johnson’s slump in popularity has already inflicted heavy setbacks on the Tories in a local election in early May. The majority doubts more and more about the capacity of “BoJo”, booed by the crowd during the celebrations of the jubilee of the queen, to win the legislative elections of 2024.
Long an asset, his whimsical, often flippant personality now annoys many Britons.
According to a poll published by YouGov on Monday, 60% of Britons wanted the Tories to oust their leader – but only 32% of Majority voters.
The repercussions of “partygate” are also not over. After the police and senior civil servant Sue Gray, another investigation is planned, this one parliamentary. If the latter concludes, a priori in the fall, that Boris Johnson deceived the House of Commons by claiming not to have broken the rules, he is supposed to resign.