British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face a vote of confidence in his leadership on Monday evening as the Partygate scandal reaches its climax.
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, confirmed in a press release early on Monday that he had received at least the 54 letters of no confidence — from 15 percent of current Conservative MPs — needed to trigger the vote. The secret ballot of all Conservative MPs will take place between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday, London time, Brady said.
Johnson has been facing a growing backlash from his own MPs over the so-called Partygate scandal which has engulfed his premiership for the past eight months.
Brady revealed on Monday that he had notified Johnson on Sunday that the threshold of no-confidence letters had been reached, adding in an address to the press that “we agreed that a vote should happen as soon as it could reasonably take place.” Brady indicated that some of his colleagues had wanted to wait until the end of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee to send in their letters of no confidence.
Johnson needs the backing of 180 of his Tory MPs to win the confidence vote — a bar he is more likely to pass than not. There are between 160 and 170 MPs on the government payroll, according to a tally by the Institute for Government.
In the more unlikely event Johnson loses the vote, a leadership contest within the party will immediately be launched to choose the next U.K. prime minister.
A statement from Downing Street described the vote as an opportunity for Johnson to “draw a line” under the scandal and move on.
“Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities,” a No. 10 spokesperson said. “The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force.”
Conservative Party rules state that should a leader survive a confidence vote, a second vote cannot then be held for at least 12 months, suggesting Johnson would then be safe until June 2023. However in a potentially ominous sign for the prime minister, Brady noted that “technically, it’s possible for rules to be changed.”
Ahead of Brady’s announcement Monday, former Treasury Minister Jesse Norman tweeted that after supporting Johnson for 15 years, including during his time as London mayor, he could no longer do so.
In an excoriating letter addressed to the prime minister, Norman accused Johnson of “presiding over a culture of casual law-breaking at 10 Downing Street in relation to Covid.”
However U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, among the favorites to succeed Johnson should he be forced from office, immediately tweeted her support.
“The prime minister has my 100 percent backing in today’s vote, and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him,” Truss wrote. “He has delivered on covid recovery and supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. He has apologized for mistakes made. We must now focus on economic growth.”