British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a crunch Conservative Party confidence vote later Monday after 54 of his Tory MPs triggered a contest following a string of scandals that have shattered confidence in his leadership.
A Downing Street spokesperson branded the vote as “a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities”.
Backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed that “the threshold of 15 percent of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded”.
“In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 (1700 and 1900 GMT) today,” he said, noting the votes will be counted immediately afterwards and an announcement then made “at a time to be advised”.
A spate of scandals have tarred Johnson’s image in the past year, most notably the so-called “Partygate” controversy which saw him become the first serving UK prime minister found to have broken the law.
Brady told reporters that Johnson was informed last night — as four days of national celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee ended — that the threshold to trigger a vote had been reached.
“We agreed the timetable for the confidence vote to take place and he shared my view — which is also in line with the rules that we have in place — that that vote should happen as soon as could reasonably take place and that would be today,” he added.
Brady did not disclose how many letters of no-confidence in Johnson he had received from Conservative MPs, noting some colleagues had post-dated their letters until after the jubilee celebrations.
The Downing Street spokesperson added: “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”.
– Ebbing support –
The 359 Conservative MPs currently sitting in parliament will decide Johnson’s fate by secret ballot, and if he wins — half the votes cast plus one — the embattled leader cannot be challenged again for a year.
However, the Tory party could change its own internal rules to allow another contest sooner.
If he loses, a leadership contest follows in which he cannot stand.
Johnson refused to stand down after receiving a single fine for attending a lockdown-breaching event in Downing Street in 2020.
But support for him among Conservatives has ebbed away in recent weeks following the publication of an internal inquiry which found he presided over a culture of Covid lockdown-breaking parties that ran late into the night and even featured a drunken fight among staff.
A host of Tory MPs have come forward to say they do not believe the party can win the next general election under Johnson’s leadership.
Opinion polls have shown deep public disapproval over the scandal, with large majorities of people saying Johnson knowingly lied about “Partygate” and that he should resign.
The Tories have suffered several electoral setbacks during his tenure, including losing traditionally safe seats to the Liberal Democrats in by-elections and hundreds of councillors in local elections in early May.
The party is also predicted to lose two more by-elections later this month, in southwest and northern England.