It will take at least four disgruntled Conservative MPs to trigger a confidence motion in Britain’s beleaguered prime Minister. Boris Johnson would be at most 90% today, according to this reckoning.
This is the result of the long-awaited Sue Gray Report into pandemic party that was conducted under the PM’s watch. The forty-page document has been available for Parliamentarians to read and to draw their own conclusions. They can also listen to the opinions of their constituents.
A growing number of people are concluding that Johnson must be fired.
In a scathing letter to voters, Andrea Leadsom, a former business secretary and Brexit ally, stated that Johnson’s “unacceptable failures in leadership” cannot be tolerated. Johnson is being publicly condemned by almost thirty Tory backbenchers, and at least another dozen have sent their letters of no confidence.
The prime minister is getting closer to the edge.
Johnson could lose confidence votes even if the required number of MPs demands his resignation. To do that, Johnson would need 180 of his fellow colleagues to vote against him. This assumes that he doesn’t decide to quit. Johnson previously stated that it would take a tank unit to remove him from Number 10. This is not likely.
It’s a matter of loyalty for Conservative lawmakers to the man who has secured them the largest majority in a generation. But sentiment doesn’t run deep in Westminster. It doesn’t matter if Johnson is an electoral asset or a liability. Although it’s not wise to stake too much in opinion polls Labour’s lead — no matter how narrow — is going to be gnawing at Tory heads.
Today I asked a Conservative MP from a ex-red wall seat if they had, in private, added their name on the list demanding Johnson’s resignation, despite an earlier public support declaration. Their letter was received three days after Gray’s report.
Why? It all revolves around rule-breaking, apparent hypocrisy, lies, and general disrepute emanating from Downing Street. If you look deeper, there are other substantive issues that this parliamentarian is thinking about (as well as those of their colleagues). For example, does Johnson have the capacity to deliver on his big promises, such as ‘leveling-up’ the north of England. They concluded that Johnson probably does not.
However, the removal of the prime minister is only one side. Who would succeed him?
This is the devilish question that would-be Tory daggerwielders are asking. Many are dissatisfied with their leader’s behavior, but don’t believe there’s an alternative. This silent majority, if it is still a majority, are content to sit on their hands and wait for Gray’s report to slip from their minds as other issues — not least the cost-of-living crisis — take precedence.
However, with a parliamentary commission looking at the conduct of the prime minister now underway and two byelections on the horizon it seems unlikely that this will happen.
Although the partygate row may be over, it’s not over.