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Politics

How long does Boris Johnson have left as prime minister? 

All of the ways that Boris Johnson could still be ousted as prime minister after surviving a vote of no confidence.

Boris Johnson has survived a no confidence vote contesting his leadership by winning the support of 211 MPs, with 148 voting for him to go. However, many backbenchers have said that the writing is now on the wall, with the prime minister’s time at number 10 running out.

Polling suggests that the public are losing patience too. Last month, a YouGov poll indicated that almost six in ten Britons want the prime minister to go. Even among Conservative party members, more than four in ten said that they wanted MPs to vote to remove Johnson from his post.

Even with the vote of no confidence out of the way, Johnson faces a fragile few months as Tory rebels continue to call for his resignation. How else might Johnson find himself out of a job?

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A second no confidence vote from Conservative MPs

As it stands, at least one year must pass before a second vote of no confidence is held among Conservative MPs, meaning that rebel Tories may not get another chance to oust the prime minister until June 2023.

However, chair of the 1922 committee Graham Brady has said it is “technically possible” for the rules of the committee on no confidence votes to change, if the majority of the Conservative party want them to. This could allow for votes of no confidence to happen every six months.

Speaking on Sky News, Tory MP Tobias Elwood said that he would support such a rule change.

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“I would see us having to go down that direction and I would support it if there’s a requirement for it to be introduced,” he said.

Such a rule change could see the prime minister’s position challenged again before the year is out. If the upcoming by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton, in Devon, and Wakefield, West Yorkshire, don’t land in the Tories’ favour, then this option could be disastrous for Johnson.

Parliamentary motion of no confidence

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said the party is tabling a motion of no confidence in the prime minister.

This would enable all parties within Parliament, not just the Conservatives, to have their say on whether Johnson should be shown the door.

However, this is unlikely to come to fruition. The motion put forward by Davey will be an early day motion, which exist largely to bring attention to an issue and rarely end up in a debate or a vote.

Cabinet rebellion

If Johnson’s Cabinet, made up of senior government ministers, feel that it is time for him to jump ship then they may put pressure on him to do so. 

This is possible. In the most high profile instance, Margaret Thatcher was forced out as PM after facing a leadership challenge from Michael Heseltine. After discussions with her cabinet, she withdrew from a second ballot on the leadership challenge and resigned shortly after.

However, in Johnson’s case, this seems highly unlikely. His cabinet ministers, from Dominic Raab to Liz Truss, have come out swinging in favour of the prime minister’s leadership, urging the party to move forward.

MP rebellion

The other option available to backbench Tory MPs who are unhappy with Johnson’s leadership is to refuse to vote on government legislation.

This would leave Johnson’s government unable to pass laws and ultimately leave him with no option other than to quit.

This option also seems unlikely, however, with MPs who fail to vote when instructed to potentially “losing the whip” — in other words, being thrown out of the party.

MPs who refuse to vote when requested may also face being deselected by their local party, making them unable to stand at the next general election.

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Upcoming investigation into whether Johnson misled Parliament

Partygate will continue to loom over Johnson’s head in the coming months, as the cross-party commons privileges committee carries out an investigation into whether he knowingly misled parliament about the parties that occurred in and around No.10.

Johnson has continually denied ever knowingly misleading the house, saying that he honestly believed all rules and guidance were followed by government officials throughout the pandemic.

If the committee finds that he did deliberately lie to MPs, the ministerial code has historically stated that “ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation”.

However, Johnson has recently rejigged the ministerial code so that ministers found to have broken the rules do not always have to resign. Many accused him of lowering the standards for politicians as a result, and the act was one of many reasons his own MPs turned against him.

General election

The most certain of routes towards ousting Boris Johnson is the next general election, due to be held in May 2024. It’s a long way off and much could happen to the Prime Minister and his leadership in the meantime, but this is the next opportunity for the public to use their democratic power to get rid.

Intervention from the queen

The least likely option but still a possibility. While the queen does technically have the power to sack the prime minister, she has never and probably would never use it as this would be seen as unconstitutional.

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