Boris Johnson survives no-confidence vote but faces deep discontent

Over 40% of the legislators from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party voted to remove him in a secret ballot held on June 6. The vote was held in the wake of the “Partygate” scandal and amid a severe cost of living crisis in the UK

June 07, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
No-confidence vote against UK PM
Boris Johnson. (Photo: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a no-confidence vote amid growing opposition within his ruling Conservative Party. The Tory leader will remain in power after the motion was defeated with 148 votes in favor and 211 against in a secret ballot on Monday, June 6. 

The confidence vote was held after Tory Member of Parliament (MP) and chairman of the Party’s 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, announced that he had received letters from 54 legislators, or 15% of the Conservative MPs, demanding it. PM Johnson needed the support of a simple majority or 180 out of the 359 Conservative legislators, to continue in office. 

Johnson was informed of the vote on June 5 following growing pressure against him in the wake of the “Partygate” scandal which revealed details of events that were held in Downing Street and Whitehall in violation of strict COVID-19 lockdown rules. Anger grew following the release of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report on the scandal. The UK is also witnessing a severe cost of living crisis, with families unable to afford food and energy, caused by years of austerity.

A snap poll conducted by YouGov ahead of Monday’s vote showed that 60% of respondents and 32% of Conservative voters were in favor of Tory MPs removing Johnson as Prime Minister. A growing number of Tory MPs also released letters publicly condemning Johnson’s actions and calling on him to step down. Among them was the government’s anti-corruption tsar, John Penrose, who resigned on Monday. He also called on Johnson to step down, accusing him of failing to address the “broader and very serious criticisms” detailed in Gray’s report. He said that Johnson had “breached a fundamental principle of the ministerial code- a clear resigning matter.”  Labour Party MPs, including leader Keir Starmer, also called on Tory MPs to remove Johnson. 

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Johnson stated that it was a “convincing result, a decisive result and what it means is that as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people.” However, commentators and several Tory MPs have signaled major incoming problems for Johnson and his government. 

As per the current rules of the Conservative Party, once a confidence vote is carried out and a leader is able to secure enough votes to survive and continue, then another vote may not be held for at least a year. However, senior party member Tobias Ellwood told Sky News that the heads of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs were looking at changing the rules, which could lead to Johnson facing another confidence vote in six months. 

The Prime Minister is still facing an investigation from the privileges committee to determine if he misled the parliament over the Partygate scandal. The UK is also set to hold two key by-elections on June 23. 

In a statement released on Monday, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) said that the vote was “about the integrity of the chief representative of the British capitalist political system.” It added that while “Changing prime ministers may not change a lot but it can derail the pace and progress of the capitalist offensive. It would momentarily cause dislocation in the ranks of the Conservative Party while the workers prepare, on June 18, to step up the opposition.”

Prominent left politician and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn stated that the vote would not provide any comfort “to the millions of families pushed into poverty by the soaring cost of living, relying on food banks, and struggling to pay the bills. They need real change and policies to give them hope for the future.” 

The CPB has called for support for the upcoming We Demand Better march by the Trade Union Congress to raise demands including a real pay rise, respect and security for all workers, tax energy profits, and the raising of universal credit. 

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