Political news

Boris Johnson survives confidence vote but 148 Tory MPs refuse to back him

 Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, announces that Boris Johnson has survived an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadership at the Houses of Parliament in London. Picture date: Monday June 6, 2022.
Christopher McKeon, PA

The British Prime Minister’s victory in Monday’s confidence vote does not mean the end of Boris Johnson’s problems.

While Conservative Party rules mean he is safe from a confidence vote for another year, Mr Johnson still faces a daunting list of challenges demanding his attention.

First on the list will be mending his own divided party. A confidence vote is never a good thing for a leader and the 148 votes against him means he now faces an internal opposition that is difficult to ignore.

While it is possible this might translate to more backbench rebellions, the biggest problem is that Mr Johnson’s authority is now seriously dented and he may struggle to push through parts of his agenda should he encounter cabinet opposition.

The suggestion that Mr Johnson could carry out a reshuffle could present further problems. It may be difficult for the Prime Minister to promote those who supported him on Monday without making more enemies by sacking those already in Government.

Away from Mr Johnson’s internal party problems, the cost-of-living crisis continues to present the chief policy challenge facing the Prime Minister.

In the short term, inflation is set to continue rising and further support from the Treasury may become necessary over the winter, while a “reasonable worst case scenario” could include blackouts for millions of homes.

In the longer term, the Government faces ongoing difficulties thanks to poor productivity growth and sluggish economic expansion overall. Getting the economy growing again is a subject that consumes both the Government and centre-right think tanks, and could be key to the Chancellor keeping his promise of cutting income tax in 2024.

Added to this is the challenge of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

NHS waiting lists continue to swell, with some 6.4 million people in England alone, while the backlog of criminal cases in the crown courts remains high with around 14,700 cases waiting more than a year to be dealt with.

Further work will also be needed to help children catch up on education missed during the pandemic, and all these difficulties will require close attention in order to solve.

In foreign policy, the war in Ukraine and attempts to counter Russian influence in the UK are a key priority, but the Government is also headed for a renewed row with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Finally, Monday evening’s vote does not draw a line under the Partygate scandal as the House of Commons Privileges Committee is still conducting an investigation into whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled Parliament when he said there had been no parties in Downing Street.

If the committee finds that he did mislead the House, there will be renewed calls for the Prime Minister’s resignation and it is possible the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers could change its rules to allow another confidence vote within a year of Monday’s ballot.

Whether in foreign policy, domestic policy or within his own party, Mr Johnson faces an array of challenges from which Monday evening’s victory provides only temporary respite.

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