Boris Johnson survives no-confidence vote: here's why he's still not safe

·3-min read

Watch: Boris Johnson survives vote of confidence

Boris Johnson has survived a vote of no confidence after 211 out of 359 Conservative MPs cast ballots in his favour.

The vote was triggered after the threshold number of at least 54 Conservative MPs submitted letters of no confidence.

Johnson scraped through the test in his leadership after fewer than 180 MPs – the required number to topple him – expressed no confidence in the PM.

However, the slim margin of victory has left the PM on shaky ground after a significant portion of his party turned their backs on him. It means that, while he has survived for now, his medium-term future remains uncertain.

Some 41% of Tory MPs voted against Boris Johnson (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
Some 41% of Tory MPs voted against Boris Johnson (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

Why was the no-confidence vote triggered?

The prime minister has been teetering on the edge for a number of weeks after being unable to shake the Partygate scandal.

A string of his own MPs had already called for him to stand down in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into breaches of the COVID-19 regulations in No 10 and Whitehall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving for the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on day two of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II. Picture date: Friday June 3, 2022.
Prime minister Boris Johnson faces a no confidence vote among Conservative MPs on Monday evening. (PA)

Read more: Boris Johnson suggests he considered quitting over Partygate

Johnson was fined £50 in April for attending his own birthday party in June 2020 with Gray's report, published last month, revealing a drunken culture in Downing Street.

The prime minister said he took "full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch" but said he wanted to "keep moving forward".

However, that was insufficient to sway many Conservative MPs, who are worried they face heavy defeat in two upcoming by-elections later this month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in Downing Street, London, following the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties in Whitehall during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture date: Wednesday May 25, 2022.
Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking last month after the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street parties during the COVID-19 lockdown. (PA)

Voters in the constituencies of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon and Wakefield in West Yorkshire go to the polls on 23 June.

A survey for the Sunday Times predicted a 20-point lead for Labour over the Conservatives in Wakefield, a poll that will concern some 'Red Wall' Tory MPs amid fears they are losing support in parts of the North and Midlands that proved so crucial in the party's comprehensive election victory.

Defeat in these by-elections would likely pile even more pressure on Johnson to go.

Conservative MPs will also be mindful of national polling, which has been consistently against the PM in recent months. On Monday, two separate polls showed 60% of the public wanted Tory MPs to remove Johnson as prime minister in the vote of no confidence.

What happens next?

Some 148, less than 50%, of Tory MPs voted to oust Johnson as prime minister, meaning he will stay on in his role.

The current rules mean Johnson should be immune from another no-confidence vote for a year.

Read more: How Conservative MPs can get rid of Boris Johnson

However, Brady admitted there is a possibility that rule could be changed. "Technically, it's possible," he said on Monday.

Crucially, even though Johnson has won the confidence vote, his leadership has been severely undermined.

His predecessor, Theresa May, won a no-confidence vote in December 2018 by 200 to 117 votes, but stumbled on for just six more months without the support of more than a third of her party, before resigning.

Boris Johnson's no confidence vote outcome, compared to Theresa May's (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
Boris Johnson's no confidence vote outcome, compared to Theresa May's (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

Johnson will also likely limp on after claiming victory by a small margin, but the longer term implications on his leadership will be difficult to keep at bay.

Without a party united behind him his authority will be dented, and it will be significantly harder to push through new laws and policies.

This was the problem that eventually unseated May. Unable to persuade her MPs to get behind her in parliament, she eventually resigned.