Backbench rebellion makes confidence vote result a hollow victory for Johnson

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Boris Johnson has an interesting understanding of the word “decisive”. That was one of the words the Prime Minister used to describe last night’s confidence vote, which he won by 211 votes to 148. With only 59% of Tory MPs voting in favour of Johnson’s leadership, his victory is a hollow one (worryingly for the Prime Minister, the Telegraph also chose that adjective to describe the result). The proportion of MPs who backed Johnson is lower than that achieved by Theresa May in her confidence vote in December 2018.

And delving deeper into the stats only worsens the picture for the Prime Minster. Discounting the approximately 160 Tory MPs who hold government roles (supposing that the people in his team did back him), almost 75% of Conservatives voted against Johnson. This is a resounding rejection from his own backbenches. Rumours of an impending reshuffle that may see promotions for some of the 2019 intake of MPs indicate that the Prime Minister knows the patronage factor saved him

Keir Starmer described the result as “grotesque” and said Tory MPs had “ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and all he represents”. The Labour leader argued that the Conservative Party now believes that “breaking the law is no impediment to making the law” and that the “British public have no right to expect honest politicians”. Angela Rayner made a similar argument on the broadcast round this morning, saying the Prime Minister’s conduct was a “plague on all our houses”, as it undermines public confidence in all politicians.

Pressed on the differences between Johnson’s behaviour and ‘beergate’, the deputy Labour leader stressed that she and Starmer had been “so stringent” in following the rules during the incident in Durham and were “very confident” the law had not be broken. Asked whether she would run for a leadership role if forced to resign, she told BBC Radio 4 listeners that she did not think “our party or our members would necessarily want that” and that a fine “very much could be” the end of her and Starmer’s frontline political careers. Starmer similarly told LBC News on Monday that he would not seek to re-stand should he resign over beergate.

Labour will use an opposition day motion today to urge MPs to back the recommendations made by the committee on standards in public life – in order to “stop the rot” and “clean up politics”. In an effort to drive the wedge still further between the Prime Minister and his backbenchers, the opposition party has called on Tory MPs to “do the decent thing”, emphasising that those who fail to support the motion “will have to look their constituents in the eye”.

In Labour news, nominations continue to roll in for candidates seeking to secure a place on the ballot in the elections to decide who sits on the party’s governing body. LabourList has some snazzy new maps showing the distribution of support for those standing to be a local party representative – check them out here. We also have an exclusive interview with Labour’s Wakefield by-election candidate Simon Lightwood, in which he argued the looming vote is about “giving Wakefield back its voice” – not a referendum on partygate or Johnson.

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