The government crisis in Great Britain continues: In the confidence vote on Boris Johnson on Monday evening, only 59 percent of the conservative parliamentary group wanted to strengthen their party leader. 148 out of 359 MPs voted against the 57-year-old, who has ruled the country since July 2019 and led the Tories to a clear election victory two and a half years ago. The parliamentary group has thus refused the Prime Minister’s request to “draw a line under the weeks of media speculation” with a clear vote.
Under the Conservative statutes, the leader does not have to face routine re-election. A vote will only take place if at least 15 percent of the current 357 Tory MPs withdraw their confidence from the party leader. This is done in writing by notifying the head of the so-called 1922 Committee, which has represented the interests of conservative backbenchers for 99 years.
The quorum of 54 no-confidence declarations was reached on Sunday, which is why 1922 boss Graham Brady appeared before the media on Monday morning. What the gray eminence had to say had already leaked out: in consultation with Downing Street, the vote should take place on the same day.
In doing so, Brady did the prime minister the same favor as his predecessor Theresa May did in December 2018. In general, a quick vote is considered to be advantageous for the incumbent. This makes any collusion between different faction groups and their leaders difficult, if not impossible.
In the government district of Westminster, it is unlikely that the result, as promised by Johnson, will end the internal party quarrels. On the one hand, the 57-year-old, who once ruled the capital London as a Liberal Conservative, has moved further and further to the right in recent months and has thus strained the patience of former companions like Jesse Norman.
In addition, many government initiatives are conspicuous for their grandiose slogans and inadequate implementation. On the other hand, the wife of party leader Norman demonstrated what competent government action looks like: Kate Bingham managed the corona vaccination program, with which the country made an impression worldwide last year.
At the same time, impatience was growing among veteran right-wing parliamentarians. At the end of last month, for example, Arch-Brexiteer John Baron withdrew his confidence in the boss on the brief grounds that he had “deceived Parliament”.
The accusation relates to the more than a dozen corona parties at the seat of government in Downing Street, which have outraged the country for months. Johnson initially claimed there were no parties; he later denied any knowledge of their preparation, claiming he mistook meetings with alcohol and snacks “for work meetings.”
Top official Sue Gray denounced the “failure of leadership and judgment” in an investigative report. According to the investigation report, there was partying and drinking at 10 Downing Street into the morning, there were fights, red wine and vomit clung to the walls. There is a photograph of Johnson at one such party, glass in hand, glassy-eyed, giving a speech.
The Tories are on the verge of fresh defeats after a major setback in local elections in early May, further tarnishing Johnson’s reputation as a consistent electoral winner. Nationwide, the Conservatives have been trailing opposition leader Keir Starmer’s Labor Party for months.
On Sunday, new bad news shocked all those Tory MPs whose seats are at risk in the next election, which is expected to be held in mid-2024. According to polls, the Conservatives are likely to lose significantly in two by-elections on the symbolically important June 23 – the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum. Both elected officials had to resign after sex scandals.
More than half a dozen Tories have been embroiled in scandals since the beginning of the legislature. This is possibly an indication that the Conservatives have become all too sure of their cause after their clear election victory in December 2019 and meanwhile twelve years of government. The prime minister’s behavior contributed to this impression.
This was stated most clearly a few weeks ago by Jeremy Hunt, successively Ministers for Culture, Health and Foreign Affairs under David Cameron and Theresa May. On Monday, the 55-year-old reiterated his opinion that his party under Johnson could not lead the country with integrity and competence: “We have the choice between losing the next election and changing. I vote for the change.”
A series of tweets from Culture Minister Nadine Dorries, who was extremely loyal to Johnson, later illustrated how irritable the mood among the Tories is now and is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. In it, she accused Hunt of duplicity and incompetence: “You were wrong about almost everything, now you’re wrong again.”