Boris Johnson faces confidence vote after ‘Partygate’

  • Voting will take place later on Monday
  • Partigate temperament in the Conservative Party
  • A campaign of support coordinated by the Council of Ministers

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a confidence vote on Monday after a growing number of lawmakers in his ruling Conservative Party questioned the British leader’s authority in the wake of the “party gateway” scandal.

Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, is under mounting pressure after he and his staff held alcohol-fuelled parties at the heart of power when Britain was under a strict COVID-19 lockdown.

The chorus was met with derision and boos, and some silent cheers, at events marking Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee in recent days.

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And on Monday, Johnson was apparently attacked by former ally Jesse Norman, a former secretary of state who said the prime minister’s remaining in power insulted both voters and the party. Read more

“I’ve presided over a culture of casual law-breaking in 10 Downing Street regarding COVID,” he said, adding that the government had “a large majority, but no long-term plan”.

Norman is one of a growing number of Conservative lawmakers who have declared Johnson, 57, to have lost his power to govern Britain, which faces the threat of recession, price hikes and travel chaos caused by strikes in the capital.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who ran against Johnson for leadership in 2019, said the party knew it had let the country down. “Today’s decision changes or loses,” he said. “I will vote for change.” Read more

Johnson’s anti-corruption champion, John Penrose, has resigned. “I think it’s over,” he told Sky News when asked about Johnson’s future. “Now it looks like a question of when, not, if.”

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Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Party Committee representing ordinary Conservative MPs, said the vote would take place between 6pm and 8pm (1700-1900 GMT) on Monday. Read more

“Votes will be counted immediately after that. An announcement will be made at a time when notified,” he said.

A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said the vote “will allow the government to put an end to and move forward, realizing the people’s priorities”.

“The Prime Minister welcomes the opportunity to present his case to the MPs (Members of Parliament) and will remind them that when they unite and focus on issues of concern to the electorate, there will be no tremendous political power.”

Johnson, the former mayor of London, rose to power in Westminster as the face of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, and took a hard line once in power, pushing Britain out of the single market and customs union.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities, told Sky News that completing Brexit would be “at great risk without his motivation and energy”.

Johnson recently met with the European Union over Northern Ireland, raising the prospect of further barriers to British trade, and alarming political leaders in Ireland, Europe and the United States about risks to the province’s 1998 peace deal.

The result is uncertain

A majority of Conservative lawmakers – or 180 – would have to vote against Johnson to remove him – a level that some Conservatives say may be difficult to reach. If he is passed, there will be a leadership contest to determine his replacement, which could take several weeks.

Representatives said they had received letters from the Prime Minister asking for their support in the vote.

Several ministers in his cabinet team were quick to send messages of support to the prime minister, with Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, like other potential successors, saying Johnson had shown “strong leadership”.

“I support him today and will continue to support him as we focus on growing the economy, addressing the cost of living and liquidating the COVID backlog,” he said on Twitter in what appeared to be a determined expression of support.

Betting firm Ladbrokes has named former Health Secretary Hunt as its candidate to replace Johnson if he is ousted, followed by Secretary of State Liz Truss, who also tweeted her “100% support” for the prime minister in Monday’s vote. Read more

Since the release of a damning report on the so-called Party Gate scandal, which included fights and alcohol-induced vomiting at lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, Johnson and his government have urged lawmakers to press ahead.

But after Parliament took a breather last week returning many lawmakers to their constituencies, or voting districts, many were met with a raft of complaints about Johnson.

The vitriol from Norman, who served as secretary of state in the Treasury between 2019 and 2021, is perhaps the biggest sign that Johnson’s criticism has spread beyond an audible group of alleged rebels.

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(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper) Additional reporting by William James, Alistair Smoot, William Schomberg and Farouk Suleiman. Editing by Jay Faulconbridge, Kate Holton and Alex Richardson

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