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Boris Johnson Faces Leadership Challenge Vote Today After Colleagues Declare No Confidence

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face a vote of no confidence in his leadership of the ruling Conservative Party after the threshold of Parliamentary Members of his party declared they had lost faith.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the ‘1922 Committee’ which represents non-governmental members of the ruling Conservative Party in Parliament and to whom the role of organising leadership challenges and contests falls, announced early Monday morning that the number of letters he had received from his colleagues had passed the threshold for a vote.

The announcement comes after months of revelations over the Prime Minister and senior colleagues in his government and the permanent government, the civil service, breaking the very coronavirus lockdown rules they created and imposed on the country at large.

The process is lightning fast, and the Prime Minister will know his fate as leader of Britain’s largest political party before the pubs of Westminster close their doors this evening.

Standing outside Parliament, Sir Graham spoke to news cameras and re-affirmed the contents of his earlier written statement, saying of the process:

…a vote of confidence will take place within the rules of the 1922 Committee, that vote will take place this evening in the House of Commons between six and eight o’clock, and we will announce the result shortly thereafter. There will be arrangements for proxy votes for any colleagues who can’t be present in person…

By Conservative Party rules, a leadership challenge is reached when the Committee chairman has received letters from 15 per cent of the members of the Parliamentary party. As things stand the Tories have 359 members in the 650 seat house, meaning a threshold of 54 members will have had to have written.

These rules, as constituted, do potentially hand several advantages to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The threshold for a leadership challenge, at 15 per cent, is very low and obviously demonstrates that 85 per cent of those eligible to vote on whether Boris stays or goes have not yet felt motivated to put their own letters in.

As long as the Prime Minister can persuade half of his colleagues he is their best bet he will win tonight’s vote and is then again protected by the rules of these challenges: once a Conservative Party leader has won a vote of no confidence, they are then immune against any other such challenge for one year.

The circumstances around the vote may also benefit Mr Johnson — no clear alternative as leader has yet emerged and while he will certainly have loyal colleagues in Parliament who will vote for him to stay, he may also be buoyed by colleagues who are dissatisfied with his performance but see any alternative leader as just as bad or even potentially worse.

Even if the Prime Minister survives tonight’s vote though, today may still mark the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson. The general public, who may pay less attention to the minutiae and plotting of Westminster might take the fact a leadership challenge is happening at all on the back of months of scandals around the ‘partygate’ revelations as a sign of weakness in the Prime Minister. A loss of confidence in the country in the Prime Minister could translate as fewer votes in a future general election, imperilling the government.

While today’s competition will be over quickly, unusually the announcement of the number of letters having been reached has been delayed. Sir Graham revealed Monday morning that the Prime Minister was informed of the challenge happening last night, but that the final letter to tip the balance had potentially arrived days ago, as some Tory rebels had specifically asked that their letters not become active until after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.

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