(London) After months of the “partygate” scandal, Boris Johnson only has a few hours left to save his place: the British Prime Minister faces a vote of no confidence from his majority on Monday evening.
Posted at 6:18 a.m.
Updated at 10:07 a.m.
The festive parenthesis of the platinum jubilee celebrating the 70 years of reign of Elizabeth II has barely closed, its 14e Prime Minister finds himself in an ejection seat due to the Downing Street holiday affair during lockdowns, revived in late May by a devastating report detailing breaches of anti-COVID-19 rules.
The chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 committee, Graham Brady, announced that the fateful threshold of 54 letters from MPs, or 15% of the parliamentary group, demanding the leader’s departure had been reached.
The vote will take place between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. local (1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) behind closed doors.
If Boris Johnson is defeated, an internal election will be launched to appoint a new party leader, who will become prime minister, in a delicate context of war in Ukraine and inflation at its highest for 40 years.
If he wins, he cannot be targeted by another motion of no confidence for a year, but his authority risks being considerably weakened.
In a letter to Tory MPs, Boris Johnson pleaded for his cause, stressing that the vote offered “a golden opportunity to leave (the scandal) behind us”: “If we can show unity in the days to come, then we we can win again and regain the trust of the 14 million voters who voted for us”.
While waiting for the ax, he continued to work almost as if nothing had happened, telephoning Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and receiving Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas – without welcoming her on the steps of 10 Downing Street in front of the cameras and photographers as tradition dictates.
He was to speak in the afternoon in front of his majority, while his most loyal ministers worked to defend him on television. And behind the scenes, his advisers were engaged in intense negotiations to win the 180 votes needed to keep him in power.
Booed during the jubilee
Behind a historic victory at the polls in 2019 on the promise to get the country out of the Brexit impasse, the 57-year-old leader has long maintained a stainless popularity. Despite the accumulation of scandals, he maintained himself by highlighting his leading role in the Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He was also helped by the lack of a clear successor in the ranks of the Conservatives, who have been in power for 12 years in the UK, especially since the star of Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, long a darling of the party, abruptly tarnished due to his fortune and his wife’s tax arrangements during a cost of living crisis.
But his slump in popularity has already caused heavy setbacks for the Tories in local elections in early May. The majority increasingly doubt the ability of “BoJo”, booed by the crowd during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, to win the 2024 legislative elections.
Since the publication of the administrative report on the “partygate” at the end of May, the calls for the resignation have been launched in dribs and drabs. Last to come out of the woods on Monday morning, MP Jesse Norman deemed “grotesque” the defense of the Prime Minister, himself subject to a fine for a surprise birthday party – unheard of for a head of government in office.
According to a poll published by Opinium on Monday, 59% of Britons want the Tories to oust their leader – but only 34% of Majority voters.
If dozens of elected officials have expressed their support for the head of government on Twitter, former minister Jeremy Hunt, often cited as a pretender to the succession, announced that he would vote against him: “We no longer have the confidence voters and we are on our way to losing the next legislative elections”.
Another setback: MP John Penrose, in charge of the fight against corruption with Boris Johnson, resigned, and invited the Prime Minister to do the same, considering that he had broken the ministerial code.
If he wins Monday night’s vote, the problems will not be over for Boris Johnson.
At the end of 2018, Theresa May had survived a motion of no confidence before resigning a few months later, too weak.
Another investigation into the “partygate” is also planned, this one parliamentary. If the latter concludes that Boris Johnson misled the House of Commons by claiming not to have broken the rules, he is supposed to resign.
What is the party gate ?
On November 30, 2021, the tabloid The Daily Mirror reveals that several members of the British government partied notably at 10 Downing Street in 2020 and 2021, as authorities imposed significant restrictions on taxpayers. The Telegraph also mentioned a party that ended in the early morning, when Queen Elizabeth II attended the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip, alone. Following the celebrations, civil servant Sue Gray released a report in which the prime minister was harshly blamed for carelessness at his official residence.