Well, that went well. It’s a phrase that only seems to be used ironically these days, and as such pretty much sums up the confidence vote in the Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson won, but much more narrowly than anyone was predicting. With 211 votes to 148, Sir Graham Brady announced that the “Parliamentary Party does have confidence in the Prime Minister”.
It’s a bit like the PM’s apologies for Partygate in the House of Commons – the sorry, not sorry line. This is a confidence, no confidence result.
So, what happens next? Boris Johnson will carry on trying to turn attention to tackling the cost-of-living crisis, supporting Ukraine, and getting Brexit done.
“Getting on with the massive agenda we were elected to deliver in 2019… and we should be proud, proud, proud of what we are doing,” he told his cabinet on Tuesday morning.
Critics of the Prime Minister argue that the whole focus of government is about the survival of Boris Johnson rather than running the country.
One of their biggest problems, though, is that there is no obvious alternative, and certainly none for those who voted against Johnson to coalesce around.
One of the much-touted options is to have a cabinet reshuffle. Doing this carries risks. Anyone sacked, demoted or passed over could join the ranks of the 148. Given that the confidence vote is a secret ballot, there is a fair chance some ministers have already done that.
Some have suggested he could call a snap election. This is probably the maddest and least likely option. The Conservatives are behind in the polls and Boris Johnson’s popularity is at a record low. Holding a snap election would be like pressing a Tory self-destruct button. It might be best for the country, but it would be the worst option for keeping his party and himself in power.
The most likely option is that Johnson will keep blustering on; ignoring the dents in his authority, attempting to shrug off impending by-election defeats, more Partygate inquiries, trying to turn attention to action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, all the while hoping things get better.
Replaced by conference?
If they don’t get better, it will be time for the men and women in grey suits to tap him on the shoulder and threaten to change the party rules, forcing another confidence vote. Internal opponents only need another 32 to beat him and they think he will have been replaced before the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham in October.
I said last night that Boris Johnson’s jaiket was on the shoogliest of pegs. Well after the vote, it is hanging by a thread.
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