LONDON (NYTIMES) – British opposition leaders seized on the result of the no-confidence vote on Monday (June 6) to paint Conservative lawmakers as having endorsed the leadership of a lawbreaking prime minister.
“Conservative MP’s made their choice tonight,” said the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer. “They have ignored the wishes of the British public.”
Voters, he said, are “fed up – fed up – with a prime minister who promises big but never delivers”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived the tense vote of no-confidence, fending off a mutiny that nevertheless leaves him reeling and presages a volatile period in British politics as he fights to stay in power and lead a divided Conservative Party.
The vote, 211-148, fell short of the majority of Tory lawmakers needed to oust Mr Johnson. But it laid bare how badly his support has eroded since last year, when a scandal erupted over revelations that he and his senior aides threw parties at No. 10 Downing Street that violated the government’s Covid-19 lockdown rules.
More than 40 per cent of Conservative lawmakers voted against him in an unexpectedly large rebellion.
The result leaves Conservatives restive and divided, after a tense day in which senior members of the party sparred openly on social media. Some lawmakers argued that his position had become untenable.
Mr Roger Gale, a Conservative lawmaker, expressed surprise at the size of the rebellion.
“I think the prime minister has to go back to Downing Street tonight and consider very carefully where he goes from here,” Mr Gale said to the BBC.
But one of Mr Johnson’s defenders, Mr James Cleverly, a minister in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said that “he’s won it comfortably and now we need to get on with the job”.
He said of Mr Johnson’s electoral track record: “There’s no other candidate that is going to get anything like that level of support.”
Mr Johnson was greeted warmly when he addressed Conservatives earlier in the afternoon, with some lawmakers pounding their desks in gestures of support, according to those in attendance. But he also got challenging questions, and as the members drifted out of the committee room afterwards, it was clear he had not convinced all those who opposed him to call off their mutiny.
“I told the prime minister that if he broke the law he would have to go,” said Mr Steve Baker, an influential pro-Brexit lawmaker who has called on Mr Johnson to step down.
“He’s clearly broken the law, he’s clearly acquiesced in the law being broken, so I stick to my word that I gave on the record that he should go.”