The slingshot will not have got the better of Boris Johnson. The British Prime Minister managed to retain his post on Monday evening, after a vote of no confidence in the Conservative Party, once again confirming his reputation as a Teflon politician.
Updated yesterday at 8:04 p.m.
Of the 359 “Tory” deputies who voted, 211 voted in favor of BoJo and 148 against, a considerable number which reflects deep divisions within the right-wing political formation.
This vote of no confidence comes two weeks after the publication of an investigation report on “partygate”, a scandal linked to the very drunken evenings which were held in the residence of the Prime Minister during the second confinement, in defiance of the health rules that he himself had enacted.
These shortcomings were very badly perceived by the British population and earned Boris Johnson virulent criticism from the opposition, but also from his own camp.
So far, only a handful of elected Conservatives have openly expressed their dissatisfaction. But the vote of no confidence was officially triggered Monday, after we reached the fateful figure of 54 letters from deputies (15% of the majority) demanding his departure.
Pleading his case to his troops before the vote, Boris Johnson had urged them to end a saga he said was only of interest to the media to “talk exclusively about what we are doing for the people of this country”, according to a government official. Conservative Party quoted by AFP.
Addressing their Thatcherite streak, he had dangled tax cuts and cuts in the administration, contrasting with the massive public interventions of recent years in favor of the pandemic, or more recently of the crisis in the cost of life.
His efforts have clearly paid off. Under current rules, this victory means that the former mayor of London can no longer be challenged by his troops for at least a year. But this internal crisis will leave marks. And nothing says that the next few months will be easy for BoJo, in a delicate context of war in Ukraine and inflation at its highest for 40 years.
Christopher Stafford, professor of politics at the University of Nottingham, answers our questions.
THE PRESS : How to explain this result, considering the scale of the slingshot?
CHRISTOPHER STAFFORD: Johnson’s victory can be attributed to a few factors. Mainly the absence of viable successors and the fact that several deputies owe their position to him. The majority of his cabinet wouldn’t even come close to being in government if it were another prime minister.
A few days ago, the vote of no confidence still seemed very hypothetical. Why did the mood turn so quickly?
Sue Gray’s investigative report and voter reaction are key. The population is very angry against Johnson and his deputies know it. There are two by-elections shortly and the Conservatives appear to be heading for defeat in both cases, even though one of those seats has traditionally gone to the Conservatives. Johnson is responsible for this and his deputies are starting to get nervous.
BoJo therefore saves his skin. Does that mean his problems are over?
He hangs on, but it will be difficult to continue. He claims victory, but the large number of deputies who voted against him means that his position will be untenable in the long term.
What effect on the Conservative Party? A weakening?
Absolutely. Johnson pulls the party down. Several of his recent political ads were controversial because they were intended to grab headlines and distract voters. Even though several of his MPs voted against him, his party is perceived as making his life easier and he suffers as a result.
What to expect in the coming months?
This story is not over. Far from there. The scale of the vote against him is very large and although he tries to downplay it, it leaves him seriously weakened.
148 MPs against is worse than Theresa May a few years ago, and worse than previous leaders John Major and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher had obtained 147 votes against and had to resign despite his victory. Johnson’s only desire is to be Prime Minister and so he will stay in power for as long as he can, hoping it will fade and he will get through it.
But for the moment, the opinion is largely against him.
With Agence France-Presse