‘I’m happy with that’: British PM Boris Johnson survives bid to oust him from office
London: Boris Johnson has remained defiant amid calls for him to step down after surviving an attempt by four-in-ten of his Conservative colleagues to remove him as British prime minister.
Johnson hailed his win as “convincing” and “decisive” on Tuesday morning AEST, despite some of his allies conceding privately his authority had been deeply wounded after surviving the vote by a margin of 63 votes, 211 to 148.
After the vote, Johnson said: ’I’m happy with that...I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive result.”
Rebel MPs forced a confidence vote after reaching the threshold of 54 needed for a ballot – or 15 per cent of the party room - arguing Johnson was no longer an electoral asset following a string of scandals, including the so-called “Partygate” affair.
The rebels needed 180 votes to remove him from office, but several MPs, including veterans Sir Roger Gale and Julian Sturdy, said after the vote Johnson should now “consider his position” following the closer-than-expected margin.
The result threatens to keep the leadership issue alive ahead of two difficult by-elections on June 23. The polls suggest the Tories could lose both of the seats following the resignation of MPs in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield amid scandal.
Johnson told Sky News following the vote that it was a “very good result for politics and for the country” and the government could now move on and focus on what “really matters to people”.
Asked if he thought it was a decisive result, he said: “I’ve got a far bigger mandate from my own parliamentary colleagues for instance than I had in 2019.”
He added he had “no interest” in a snap election, but stopped short of explicitly ruling it out.
It is a worse result for the Conservative leader than the previous no-confidence vote in December 2018 for his predecessor, Theresa May, who won by a margin of 200 votes to 117. She resigned just six months later.
All 359 Tory MPs, including Johnson, were given a vote in secret on a simple yes/no basis on whether they had confidence in the leader.
Johnson swept to power in July 2019 following the resignation of May on a platform of delivering Brexit, uniting the country, and defeating Jeremy Corbyn. Just five months later he secured an 80-seat landslide victory on the promise to “get Brexit done”, inflicting Labour’s worst postwar defeat on Corbyn in the process.
At a meeting with backbenchers before the vote, Johnson appealed to MPs with promises of tax cuts and a major economic package next week. He warned MPs that there was no one with an “alternative vision” after Jeremy Hunt, a potential leadership rival, said earlier in the day that he would vote to remove the prime minister.
In an earlier letter to Tory MPs, Johnson promised to use Conservative principles to take advantage of new freedoms, cut costs, and drive growth.
“We will cut the costs of government. We will cut the costs of business. And we will cut the costs of families up and down the country,” he wrote.
The backbench rebellion had grown in the past 10 days, with a one-page memo widely circulated as to why they believed there was a change needed in the leadership.
“The damage done to trust in Boris Johnson is such that popular policies are falling flat with the public (e.g. cost-of-living measures),” the memo said. It said he had been dubbed him the “Conservative Corbyn”, a reference to the former Labour leader who had become a drag on the ticket.
The group entered the vote lacking the confidence that there were enough MPs willing to remove Johnson, and declared that should he win narrowly, his authority within the party “would be destroyed”.
There had been no declared challenger to Johnson for the leadership, something his enemies believed may have helped the prime minister hold on to his job.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson had presided over “a culture of law-breaking at the heart of government”.
“Conservative MPs made their choice tonight. They have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and everything that he represents.”