July 4, 2022

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Angry British lawmakers launch vote of confidence in Boris Johnson

Angry British lawmakers launch vote of confidence in Boris Johnson

  • Voting will take place later on Monday
  • Partigate temperament in the Conservative Party
  • Support campaign coordinated by the Johnson government

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a confidence vote on Monday after a growing number of lawmakers in his Conservative Party questioned the British leader’s authority in what he dubbed the “Party Gateway” scandal.

Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, is under mounting pressure after he and his staff held alcohol-filled parties in his Downing Street office and residence when Britain was in strict lockdown due to COVID-19.

He was met with a chorus of derision and boos – and some silent cheers – at events to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee in recent days.

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On Monday, a seemingly impregnable Johnson was criticized by ally Jesse Norman, a former secretary of state who said the 57-year-old prime minister who remained in power had insulted both voters and the party. Read more

“I’ve presided over a culture of casual law-breaking in 10 Downing Street regarding COVID,” he said, adding that the government had “a large majority, but no long-term plan”.

Norman is one of a growing number of Conservative lawmakers who have declared Johnson has lost his power to govern Britain, which faces rising prices, the threat of recession and travel chaos caused by strikes in the capital.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who ran against Johnson for leadership in 2019, said the party knew it was letting the country down. “Today’s decision changes or loses,” he said. “I will vote for change.” Read more

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Johnson’s anti-corruption chief, John Penrose, has resigned. “I think it’s over,” he told Sky News. “Now it seems like a question of when not if.”

The majority of the 359 Conservative lawmakers – at least 180 – will have to vote against Johnson to remove him, a level that some Conservatives say may be difficult to reach, given the lack of a clear successor.

If he is passed, there will be a leadership contest to determine his replacement, which could take several weeks.

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Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Ordinary Conservative MPs, said the vote would take place between 6 pm and 8 pm (1700-1900 GMT) and the result would be announced later on Monday. Read more

In what might alarm Johnson’s team, he said he was not aware of “any organized campaign” to oust the prime minister, suggesting a more spontaneous rebellion than those that have brought down leaders in the past.

A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said the vote would allow the government to put an end to it and move forward and that the prime minister welcomed the opportunity to make his case to lawmakers. Read more

Johnson, the former mayor of London, rose to power in Westminster as the face of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, and took a hard line once in power.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities, told Sky News that completing Brexit would be “at great risk without his motivation and energy”.

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Johnson got into an argument with Brussels over Northern Ireland, raising the prospect of more barriers to British trade, and alarming leaders in Ireland, Europe and the United States about the risks to the 1998 peace deal in the territory.

The result is uncertain

Ministers also made an effort to point to what they described as the high points of the Johnson administration – saying Britain’s rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations and its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated the prime minister can make the “big decisions”.

“I support him today and will continue to support him as we focus on growing the economy, addressing the cost of living and liquidating the COVID backlog,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter in a determined expression of support.

In letters to Tory MPs, Johnson also made the same point, urging them to support him.

Johnson, or his potential successor, faces a host of problems. British families face the biggest cost-of-living pressure since records began in the 1950s, with food and fuel prices rising as wages lag.

For some Conservatives, Johnson is guilty of squandering a large majority, and unable or unwilling to set the agenda after being hampered by scandals.

But others expect him to survive the vote and, despite his injury, could reshape his administration.

For those hoping to replace him, bookmaker Ladbrokes Hunt has put the former Health and Foreign Secretary as his favourite, followed by Secretary of State Liz Truss. Read more

For many in Britain, revelations about what happened in Downing Street, including fights and alcohol-induced vomiting, when so many people were forbidden to say goodbye to loved ones at funerals, was hard to bear. One of the gatherings, which continued into the early hours, was held on the eve of the April 2001 funeral for the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. Read more

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Two in five Conservative Party members, according to YouGov polls, say lawmakers should vote to impeach Johnson.

Mel Chitwood, a 61-year-old archivist, said the sight of Johnson being booed by a pro-royal audience was key.

“It felt like a turning point for me.”

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(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper) Additional reporting by Andrew McCaskill, William James, Alistair Smoot, William Schomberg, Farouk Soliman and Helena Williams; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton, Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.