LONDON (AP) — A defiant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Wednesday that he is getting on with his job, as he faced Parliament for the first time since 41% of his own party’s lawmakers called for him to quit.
Johnson has been left teetering after surviving a no-confidence vote by Conservative Party legislators by a narrower-than-expected margin. A total of 148 of the 359 Tory lawmakers voted against him in Monday's ballot.
Johnson says he plans to move on and focus on bread-and-butter issues such as clearing national health care backlogs, tackling crime, easing a cost-of-living crisis and creating high-skilled jobs in a country that has left the European Union.
“As for jobs, I’m going to get on with mine,” he told lawmakers during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons.
But Johnson’s party opponents say they have not given up on pushing him out. They fear that Johnson, his reputation tarnished by revelations of boozy government parties that breached COVID-19 regulations, will doom the party to defeat in the next national election, which is due to be held by 2024.
Still, Conservative lawmakers dutifully cheered Johnson during a noisy Prime Minister’s Questions, while opponents relished the prime minister’s problems.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said any Conservatives inclined to give Johnson another chance would be disappointed.
“They want him to change — but he can’t,” Starmer said.
Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford called Johnson “a lame duck prime minister presiding over a divided party in a disunited kingdom.”
Blackford compared Johnson to comedy troupe Monty Python's character the Black Knight, who has his limbs lopped off in battle, all the while proclaiming “It's only a flesh wound!”
And Labour lawmaker Angela Eagle asked: “If 148 of his own backbenchers don’t trust him, why on Earth should the country?”
Johnson replied that “in a long political career so far, I have of course picked up political opponents all over the place.”
But he said “absolutely nothing and no one … is going to stop us getting on and delivering for the British people.”
While Conservative Party rules bar another no-confidence vote for 12 months, those rules can be changed by a handful of lawmakers who run a key Conservative committee. Johnson also faces a parliamentary ethics probe that could conclude he deliberately misled Parliament over “partygate” — which is traditionally a resigning offense.
With opinion polls giving Labour a lead nationally, Johnson will face more pressure if the Conservatives lose special elections later this month for two parliamentary districts where incumbent Tory lawmakers were forced out by sex scandals.