August 12, 2022

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Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, screams through vote of confidence but faces a battle for survival

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, screams through vote of confidence but faces a battle for survival

After a tidal wave of recent criticism – which has included illegal and lockdown-disrupting parties thrown into his Downing Street offices – Johnson swore by 211 to 148 in a secret ballot on Monday.

The outcome was praised by the government, with Johnson saying he believed “this is a very good outcome for politics and for the country”.

“I think it’s a compelling outcome, a decisive outcome, and what it means is that we as a government can move forward and focus on the things that really matter to people,” Johnson said.

However, his slim margin of victory means that 41% of his parliamentary party refused to support Johnson, three years after he led the Conservative Party to a landslide victory in the last general election.

Voting began at 6 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) on Monday after Johnson urged Conservative lawmakers to support him and stated that he had led the party to its biggest electoral victory in 40 years, according to a letter he wrote and seen by PA Media.

A major rebellion by his deputies will dent Johnson’s reputation and may harm his ability to pass legislation. The party’s disappointing results in the upcoming election may add to the pressure on Johnson, as the Conservatives face a difficult parliamentary by-election in late June.

Despite the win, the opposition Labor Party said that by clinging to power this time, Johnson is making the prospect of an early election more likely. Labor leader Keir Starmer predicted to LBC that Monday’s vote would mark the “beginning of the end” of the prime minister’s political career – no matter how the vote went.

“If you look at previous examples of no-confidence votes, even as Conservative prime ministers survive those…the damage has already been done,” The opposition leader told LBC Monday. “Normally, it falls off at a reasonable speed after that.”

After the vote, Starmer said Johnson was “completely unfit for the senior position he holds” and accused Conservative lawmakers of ignoring British public opinion. “The Conservative government now believes that breaking the law is not an impediment to the enactment of the law.”

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described Johnson as a “totally lame duck” on Twitter after the vote.

“This outcome is certainly the worst ever for the Conservatives. But more importantly: at a time of massive challenge, it is weighing on the UK with a completely lame-duck Prime Minister,” Sturgeon said in a tweet on Twitter on Monday evening.

Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was the last incumbent British leader to face a vote of no-confidence from their party. May narrowly escaped that vote, which was called up amid months of chaos over her doomed Brexit deal – but she eventually quit months later.

Monday’s vote came after more than 54 lawmakers sent letters to the chair of the 1922 Conservative Party parliamentary committee, following a wave of criticism over a number of scandals that have swept Johnson’s premiership for months.

Last month, a damning report from a senior civil servant found party culture and socializing among Johnson’s staff during the Covid-19 lockdown, while millions of Britons were prevented from seeing their friends and relatives.

The alleged Party Gate scandal has lowered his approval ratings and provoked drumbeats of discontent among many of his vice-chairmen. But Johnson has also been criticized for his response to the cost of living crisis, and his party suffered heavy losses in local elections in May.

Under Conservative Party rules – which can be changed at any time – a leader who survives a vote of confidence is immune to such a challenge for 12 months.

But with just 58.6% of Conservative MPs backing Johnson on Monday, the prime minister suffered a worse result than his predecessor May, who had the support of 63% of her MPs in a much smaller parliamentary party when she faced a confidence vote in 2018.

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Despite the poor performance, Johnson insisted it was a “very good” result, saying he was not interested in holding an early election to get a new mandate from the public.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, Richard Green, Lauren Kent, and Benjamin Brown contributed to this report.