Pressure mounts on wounded Johnson after Tory MPs vote cautious confidence
Updated 1 hour ago
UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has promised to cut taxes and drive down the cost of government after a wounding revolt by Conservative MPs put his long-term future in doubt.
Attempting to move on today, the UK leader thanked Cabinet colleagues for their efforts to support him during the confidence vote process, which saw more than four in 10 Tory MPs say they had lost faith in his leadership.
In an attempt to address criticism of his economic policies, Johnson said the “fundamental Conservative instinct” was to allow people to decide how to spend their money, urging Cabinet ministers to cut costs.
He said “delivering tax cuts” would help deliver “considerable growth in employment and economic progress”.
Former Conservative leader William Hague said Johnson has experienced a “greater level of rejection” than any of his predecessors and should resign as UK prime minister.
Conservative MPs voted by 211 to 148 in support of Johnson as part of a confidence vote.
“While Johnson has survived the night, the damage done to his premiership is severe,” Hague wrote in The Times.
“Words have been said that cannot be retracted, reports published that cannot be erased, and votes have been cast that show a greater level of rejection than any Tory leader has ever endured and survived.
“Deep inside, he should recognise that, and turn his mind to getting out in a way that spares party and country such agonies and uncertainties.”
When Theresa May faced a confidence vote in 2018 she secured the support of 63% of her MPs but was still forced out within six months.
Johnson saw 41% of his MPs vote against him, a worse result than May.
But the prime minister told reporters in Downing Street: “I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
He rejected the assertion that he was now a lame duck prime minister who needed to call a snap election to secure a new mandate from the public, insisting he was focused on the public’s priorities.
Responding to the Downing Street turmoil, Simon Coveney said today that he hoped planned legislation to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol would not become the “price” of Conservative Party support for Johnson.
The foreign affairs minister said the British Government had not shown the necessary “seriousness” to reach an agreement on the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.
He said the UK Government was instead “threatening to publish legislation this week which would effectively be using British domestic law to breach international law by setting aside elements of their treaty obligations”.
“That would be a big mistake I think politically, because I think it’ll cause an awful lot more problems than it solves,” Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
I certainly hope that’s not the price of the British prime minister maintaining majority support within his own party.
Labour puts the boot in
Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson was “utterly unfit for the great office he holds”.
“Conservative MPs made their choice,” he said.
“They have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and all he represents.”
In its motion, to be tabled in the UK parliament today, Labour will ask all MPs to vote to adopt a package of recommendations put forward by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in a report last year.
These include a call for Johnson’s ethics adviser to “be able to initiate investigations into breaches of the ministerial code”.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Labour is urging MPs of all parties to support this independent, cross-party package of reforms to tackle decaying standards.
If they fail to back this move to clean up politics, it is they who will have to look their constituents in the eye.
Hague noted he did not face a confidence vote while leader of the opposition from 1997 to 2001, but added he “would have regarded my position as completely untenable if more than a third of my MPs had ever voted against me”.
“The nature of this particular revolt makes it qualitatively as well as quantitatively devastating,” he wrote.
“A fairly narrow victory for Boris Johnson is not the defeat of a rival faction, or the squashing of an alternative candidate, but rather the fending-off of a gathering feeling of hopelessness.
“It is less likely to prove a turning point than a way marker on an exhausting road to further crises of confidence.
Last night’s vote is worse in percentage terms than that suffered by Mrs May and on a par with Heseltine’s challenge against Mrs Thatcher.
The Prime Minister should now leave with honour and residual affection for what he has achieved.
— Andrew Bridgen (@ABridgen) June 7, 2022
“That is the worst possible result from the Conservative Party’s point of view. Logically, they should either reconcile themselves to Johnson and get behind him, or decisively eject him and move on to a new leader. It does not seem they have done either.”
The ballot was triggered after at least 54 MPs – 15% of the party’s representatives in the Commons – formally indicated they had no confidence in the prime minister.
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Johnson could suffer further blows in two key by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton on 23 June.
“No individual in politics matters more than the health of our democracy,” Hague wrote.
“That health depends on voters having faith in the integrity of leaders even if they disagree with them, respect for how government is conducted, and a competitive choice at a future election.
“The votes just cast show that a very large part of the Conservative Party cannot see Johnson providing that.”
The view was shared by North West Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who shared the article saying: “Lord Hague is right. The residual concerns from across the party will continue to remain.”
“Last night’s vote is worse in percentage terms than that suffered by Mrs May and on a par with Heseltine’s challenge against Mrs Thatcher,” he added in another tweet.
“The prime minister should now leave with honour and residual affection for what he has achieved.”