Boris Johnson wins confidence vote, but 40% of his own MPs fail to back him

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Boris Johnson wins confidence vote, but 40% of his own MPs fail to back him

In day of high-drama in Westminster, 211 Tory MPs back the Prime Minister, while 148 vote to confirm they have no confidence in him remaining as leader

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO in Tallinn, Estonia. Picture date: Tuesday March 1, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO in Tallinn, Estonia. Picture date: Tuesday March 1, 2022.

Boris Johnson has won a vote of confidence on his future as Prime Minister, but with 40 per cent of Conservative MPs failing to support him.

In a day of high drama in Westminster, it was announced on Monday evening that 211 Tory MPs had backed the PM, while 148 voted saying they did not confidence in him remaining as leader.

The vote was triggered after Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee that represents backbench MPs, announced on Monday morning that the threshold of 54 letters from Conservatives, or 15 per cent of their total number, seeking his departure had been reached.

Allies of Johnson attempted to defend the PM on Monday night, despite a result that means he has a majority of just 63 to lead the Tory Party amongst his own MPs.

Minister James Cleverly told Jewish News after the result that MPs who had wanted to oust Johnson needed to “respect the democratic decision of the party and support the Prime Minister to get on with his job.”

Cleverley said the result was “comfortable” and that he “ultimately wanted the party to work together” despite the sizeable majority not able to support Johnson in the confidence vote.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Ukrainian President Zelensky would be “punching the air because his great ally Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister tomorrow morning.”

Brady announced the result of the confidence vote to Tory MPs and journalists inside a packed Westminster Committee room at 9pm on Monday, after votes were cast in a two hour window between 6-8pm.

Amongst those to confirm they had voted to support Johnson ahead of the vote was Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer.

Other senior figures to speak out in support of the PM ahead of the result being announced included cabinet ministers Liz Truss and Ben Wallace.

But in what was a secret ballot former Brexit Minister said:”I suspect quite a lot of ministers who are obviously publicly saying they’re voting one way will vote the other. ”

The MP John Penrose, the PM’s anti-corruption chief, had earlier announced his resignation over the PM’s response to the Sue Gray report into partygate and said he will now vote against him.

Labour leader Keir Starmer later said the result shows the country faced a choice between “divided Tories” and a “united Labour party”.

Even before the result was announced many Conservative MPs accepted that Johnson’s future as leader remains uncertain.

In two forthcoming by-elections, in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, the Tories are predicted to lose both, which is bound to heap further pressure on the PM.

One loyal Johnson supporter was overheard by Jewish News in Westminster telling a senior Labour MP just before the vote was announced: “Your side is the winner tonight, either way. That’s what I am most annoyed about.”

It would have taken 180 of his own MPs to vote against him, to oust Johnson immediately in the confidence vote on Monday night.

In 2018, the then Prime Minister Theresa May remained PM despite 133 of her MPs refusing to back her. But she was forced to resign six months later after accepting she had lost the support of her party.

Casting her vote on Monday evening, May was seen in queue of MPs wearing a black ballgown.

Earlier on Monday afternoon Johnson had attempted to rally his MPs into supporting him at a meeting in the with his MPs at which he said:”Lets refuse to dance to the tune of the media.”

He added:”I will lead you to victory again.”

While many banged tables in a show of support, one senior Tory figure later told Jewish News the mood at the meeting had been “grumpy.”

In a social media post ahead of the vote Finchley and Golders Green MP Freer had tweeted his support for Johnson stating:”I have worked with the PM since his City Hall days.

“He has delivered on local issues such as funding Henly’s Corner to saving the 13 bus.

“He’s been steadfast in supporting my Jewish Community in fighting antisemitism.”

Also expressing support for the PM ahead of the vote were big donors to the Tory Party, including multi-millionaire financier Howard Shore and Simon Rueben.

A letter signed by 22 of the big Conservative donors had suggested it was “foolish” to plot against the PM with the signatories declaring their “unwavering support” to him.

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