June 6 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a no-confidence vote taken by lawmakers of his Conservative Party on Monday, surviving by a closer-than-expected 211-148 margin.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the “1922 Committee” comprised of all Conservative Party backbench members of Parliament, announced the results after a day of tension in which Tory lawmakers unhappy with Johnson’s leadership in the wake of the COVID-19 “Partygate” scandal attempted to oust him from office.
Although Johnson won the vote as expected, the close total meant that more than 40% of Tory members of parliament voted against him in what some analysts said could be a crippling blow to his premiership.
Even with a victory, the vote threatens to upend Johnson’s prime minister term, which included reaching a deal for Brexit and leading Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the closeness of the result, Johnson said the vote was “decisive.”
“What it means is as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people,” he told the BBC. “I’m grateful to colleagues and the support they’ve given me.
“What we need to do now is come together as a government and a party.”
Asked about the 148 party members who voted against him, Johnson said, “Don’t forget when I first stood to be leader of the Tory party I didn’t get anything like that much support from my colleagues in Parliament. We’re building on that.”
Johnson also said he is “certainly not interested” in calling a snap election in the wake of the no-confidence vote.
Johnson has held the prime minister’s office since 2019, when he led the Conservatives to an 80-seat general election victory. Once seemingly invincible, he became the target of intense criticism by Conservative rebels after an official government report documented alcohol-fueled parties at 10 Downing St. in 2020 while the rest of the country was struggling under strict pandemic lockdowns.
Johnson became the first sitting British prime minister to be fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a gathering to celebrate his birthday, despite such events being banned by his government’s own coronavirus restrictions.
The attacks reached a crescendo in the last week, spurred in part by misgivings over Johnson’s ability to lead the Tories to electoral wins in a pair of key upcoming parliamentary by-elections.
Jesse Norman, a former junior finance minister and Johnson loyalist, published a letter on Twitter earlier Monday calling for the prime minister’s ouster.
“People are crying out for good government … neither the Conservative Party nor this country can afford to squander the next two years adrift and distracted by endless debate about you and your leadership,” he wrote, adding that Johnson’s stint as prime minister is “potentially catastrophic” for the country.
After the vote, Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said Conservative lawmakers “have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and all he represents,” adding it is “grotesque that the very next day” after the observance of the queen’s Platinum Jubilee “the Conservative party has chosen to throw that sense of duty and those values on the bonfire.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the vote to retain a weakened Johnson as prime minister “saddles the U.K. with an utterly lame duck PM” at “a time of huge challenge.”
Brady’s committee received 54 letters of no confidence, which triggered the vote with 50 members going public with their criticism of Johnson.
The public’s impression of Johnson was displayed during the jubilee, where he was booed while entering St. Paul’s Cathedral before the Service of Thanksgiving.