Boris Johnson will remain as UK prime minister after tonight securing the backing of Conservative MPs.
A vote of confidence was triggered in Johnson amid public anger at drink-fuelled gatherings at the heart of government during COVID lockdowns.
Johnson received the backing of 211 MPs during Monday’s vote, with 148 voting against him. The result means he retains the confidence of 59 per cent of his parliamentary party.
Johnson called it a “convincing” win and said the party should now “come together.”
“What it means is that as a government we can move on and focus on stuff that I think really matters to people,” he said.
But previous prime ministers who survived no-confidence votes emerged severely weakened.
Johnson’s winning margin is less than that secured by his predecessor Theresa May in a similar vote in December 2018. She was forced to resign six months later.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, one of the favourites to succeed Johnson if he was ousted, tweeted: “Pleased that colleagues have backed the Prime Minister. I support him 100%. Now’s the time to get on with the job.”
Most political observers had predicted Johnson would defeat the challenge. Lilah Howson-Smith, a former special advisor to Boris Johnson and Theresa May, told Euronews “there aren’t that many credible, clear alternatives in terms of leadership rivals…which has been very helpful for Boris Johnson.”
A ‘watershed moment’
The rebellion represents a watershed moment for Johnson and is a sign of deep Conservative divisions, less than three years after he led the party to its biggest election victory in decades.
“As far as his authority in the country is concerned, I think he is gone already. And I think the longer that the conservative party hangs on to him, the more damaging it is for them,” former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman Alastair Campbell told Euronews.
“The country is far more interested in the cost of living crisis, in the climate crisis, in Ukraine, in all these difficult economic changes we face (than the partygate scandal),” he added.
Under existing Tory party rules, Johnson now cannot face another leadership challenge for a further 12 months.
But in practice, Johnson is likely to face more pressure. The war in Ukraine, a simmering post-Brexit feud with the EU and soaring inflation are all weighing on the government.
Polls give the left-of-centre opposition Labour Party a lead nationally, and the Conservatives could lose special elections later this month for two parliamentary districts, called when incumbent Tory lawmakers were forced out by sex scandals.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded to Monday’s result, saying a divided Conservative party is propping up Boris Johnson with no plan to tackle the issues you are facing”.
Johnson’s Downing Street office said the prime minister welcomed the vote as “a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on.”