Prime minister Boris Johnson. Image: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson will face a vote of no confidence today in which his MPs will decide whether he should continue to run the country as leader of the Conservative party.
Fifteen per cent of Tory MPs have written letters to Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, to declare they no longer have confidence in Boris Johnson as leader of their party.
So what’s going on?
Why is a no-confidence vote happening?
Almost 30 Tory MPs had publicly urged the prime minister to resign in the light of the Partgate scandal which saw at least 17 parties take place in government buildings on Boris Johnson’s watch. Johnson was fined by police for attending one of these illegal parties, making him the first sitting prime minister to have broken the law while in office.
The Sue Gray report then published photos of Johnson surrounded by bottles and raising a glass at a Downing Street Christmas party despite telling MPs there had categorically not been any parties. It also highlighted the “repugnant” treatment of cleaners and security staff working in Whitehall, causing many to question what such treatment of low-paid, largely migrant staff says about the department’s management.
Public outcry over the parties and Johnson’s response has been loud, causing some Tory MPs to fear for their seat in the next General Election.
What is a vote of no confidence and when will it take place?
Now that a vote of no confidence has been triggered, Tory MPs will have to decide whether they still have confidence in Boris Johnson as their leader.
To hold on to his position, Johnson must win the support of at least 180 — more than half — of the votes from his MPs.
The vote will be held today between 6pm and 8pm today. It will take place in person, most likely in a large committee room usually used for meetings of the 1922 Committee in the Palace of Westminster.
Brady said the ballots will be counted “immediately afterwards” before he tells MPs and journalists in the room the result.
Who is Graham Brady and what’s he got to do with all this?
Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady sits as the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, which exists to represent the views of backbench Tory MPs.
With 359 Tory MPs, it takes 54 to submit letters of no confidence for the chairman to trigger a vote.
Brady announced this morning that “The threshold of 15 per cent of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded”, meaning that a vote must go ahead.
Why is it called the 1922 Committee?
Despite its name, the Committee was not founded in 1922, but was actually set up in April 1923 by new Conservative MPs elected in the 1922 general election who wanted better cooperation between front and backbench MPs.
Also known as ‘the 22’, the committee is made up of only backbench MPs who meet weekly to discuss the work of frontbench MPs, which includes the roughly 90 MPs who hold ministerial roles. The Committee’s chair is elected by its members, with Brady holding the position since 2010 apart from a brief departure in 2019 when he resigned to explore running for leader of the Conservative Party, only to return to the post four months later.
Who is the deputy prime minister and will he take Johnson’s place?
For months people have been asking whether Johnson will resign, and if so, who would replace him? Dominic Raab is the deputy prime minister, but the role of prime minister would not automatically fall to him if Johnson resigned, despite the title.
If Johnson were to resign, a leadership election would be triggered immediately and Johnson would remain in his role until his successor was decided. At this point he would give his resignation to the Queen and ask her to invite his successor to form a government.
This is what happened when David Cameron resigned and Theresa May took over.
Now that Johnson’s position is to be decided by his own MPs, they could force him to go should he fail to get enough votes. If he loses the ballot, a leadership election would be triggered with him barred from standing.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already announced that he will be running to be the next leader of the Conservative party should Johnson lose.
Why do some Tory MPs want Boris Johnson gone?
Some Tory MPs fear that Boris Johnson’s reputation has sunk so low that the Conservative party could lose the next General Election.
Johnson’s popularity with the general public has hit an all time low, with 68 per cent of the British public saying that he was doing badly as prime minister, according to a YouGov poll in May.
Recent polling by Conservative Home placed him as the most unpopular member of the government’s Cabinet among members of the Conservative party, lower than Nadine Dorries, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel.
A leaked document produced by Tory MPs who want the prime minister out, warns that he “will lead the party to a substantial defeat in 2024.”
It goes on to say that the Partygate scandal is not going away, as investigations into additional parties including the “Abba party” held by Carrie Johnson in the couple’s flat in November 2020 continue to drag on.