Boris Johnson narrowly won a no-confidence vote Monday and will remain as the U.K.’s prime minister, despite more than 40 per cent of his party’s MPs voting against him.
Johnson received support from 211 Conservative MPs — just 30 more ballots than the 180 needed to survive the vote. Every Tory MP cast a ballot. Forty-one per cent of the caucus, or 148 MPs, voted against the prime minister.
He still called the result “decisive” and claimed it proved more of his party’s MPs support him now than they did when he was elected in 2019. He added he is not interested in holding a snap election.
“I think it’s 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,” he told reporters.
The margin was tighter than the one Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May received when a no-confidence vote was held on her leadership in 2018, when 37 per cent of MPs voted against her. She resigned six months later.
Johnson was then elected prime minister in a landslide vote that was the party’s biggest election win in decades.
Monday’s vote comes after it was discovered he and his staff held several parties in 2020 and 2021 against the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
At least 54 Tory legislators had called a no-confidence vote, according to the party, clearing the 15-per cent threshold needed to trigger it.
Johnson’s Downing Street office said that 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.
Yet the result pointed to a deep divide within the party that critics said left Johnson politically wounded at a critical moment, as the country works to rebuild the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic amid inflation and impacts from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
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“At a time of huge challenge, it saddles the U.K. with an utterly lame duck PM,” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a vocal critic of the U.K. government who has pushed for Scotland’s independence from the U.K.
The Opposition Leader, Keir Starmer of the left-of-centre Labour Party, took advantage of the results to promote his “united” party to voters.
The next national election is not expected until 2024, but a pair of by-elections is scheduled for the end of this month.
Conservatives may lose those special elections, which were called when incumbent Tory lawmakers were forced out by sex scandals. Polls give the Labour Party a lead nationally.
Johnson has been able to dodge scandals and gaffes as prime minister and in previous jobs, including mayor of London, which range from offensive comments about Muslim women to shutting down Parliament during heated Brexit negotiations.
But concerns came to a head after an investigator’s report late last month that slammed a culture of rule-breaking inside the prime minister’s office in a scandal known as “partygate.”
Civil service investigator Sue Gray described alcohol-fueled 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 was also fined 50 pounds ($78) 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 he would not resign.
—With files from Reuters and the Associated Press