UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a confidence vote by members of his own party — but the final count of lawmakers who rebelled against him was far higher than his supporters expected.
After a tidal wave of recent criticism — which included illegal, lockdown-breaking parties thrown in his Downing Street offices — Johnson squeaked by with 211 votes to 148 in a secret ballot on Monday.
The government hailed the result, with Johnson saying he thought “this is a very good result for politics and for the country.”
“I think it’s a convincing result, a decisive result, and what it means is that as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people,” Johnson said.
Yet his thin margin of victory means that 41% of his own parliamentary party refused to back Johnson, three years after he led the Conservative Party to a landslide victory in the last general election.
Voting began at 6 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) Monday after Johnson urged Conservative lawmakers to back him and reminded them that he had led the party to its biggest electoral win in 40 years, according to a letter he wrote seen by PA Media.
The large rebellion by his lawmakers will leave Johnson’s reputation diminished and could damage his ability to push through legislation. Disappointing results for the party in upcoming polls could also heap more pressure on Johnson, as Conservatives face two difficult parliamentary by-elections in late June.
The so-called Partygate scandal plunged his approval ratings and sparked a drumbeat of dissatisfaction among several of his backbenchers. But Johnson has also been criticized for his response to a cost-of-living crisis, and his party suffered heavy losses at local elections in May.
Under Conservative party rules — which can be changed at any time — a leader who survives a confidence vote is safe from such a challenge for 12 months.
But with only 58.6% of Conservative MPs backing Johnson on Monday, the Prime Minister suffered a worse result than his predecessor May, who had the support of 63% of her lawmakers in a much smaller parliamentary party when she faced a confidence vote in 2018.
Despite the worse performance, Johnson insisted it was an “extremely good” result, saying he was not interested in a snap election to gain a new mandate from the public.