Wednesday, July 6

Johnson Braced for Tory Rebels to Force Confidence Vote in Days


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(Bloomberg) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees rebel MPs from the governing Conservative Party triggering a vote on his leadership as soon as this week, according to a key ally of the premier.

Tory MPs seeking to oust Johnson may be on the cusp of securing the 54 letters required to force a confidence vote, said the person, who insisted that the prime minister is confident that he would win any ballot if it were to take place. One MP who has been mobilizing against Johnson said they thought the rebels already have the numbers to call a vote.

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Under Tory party rules, only the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, knows for sure how many MPs have formally called for the premier to step down. Once the threshold is reached, Brady’s first move is to inform the prime minister. A spokesperson for the prime minister declined to comment.

Johnson has insisted he has no intention of resigning but the drumbeat of calls for him to go has steadily increased since the publication last month of an internal probe into illegal parties held in Downing Street during the pandemic.

Tory MPs return to Westminster on Monday after a long holiday weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubliee with speculation mounting about whether the prime minister can survive. If they can trigger a confidence vote, the rebels would need 180 voters to remove Johnson and prompt a leadership contest to choose the next prime minister.

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The report into the so-called partygate scandal has soured the mood among lawmakers already frustrated by his chaotic style and a series of missteps. Johnson became the first sitting prime minister found to have broken the law when he was fined over a celebration for his birthday party during the pandemic.

Uncertainty over his future comes as Britons grapple with soaring energy bills and the highest inflation in four decades. Warnings that as many as 250,000 more households faced being plunged into destitution Chancellor Rishi Sunak to prompt unveil a 15 billion-pound ($18.7 billion) support package to ease the cost of living crisis.

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The prime minister received a further setback over the weekend, with polling suggesting the Tories are facing defeat in a special election in Wakefield on June 23.

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The seat is among the historically Labour-voting districts in northern England — the so-called Red Wall — that helped deliver a huge majority for Johnson in the 2019 general election. On Sunday, pollster JL Partners put Labour 20 points ahead.

The party is also facing humiliation in a separate by-election due to be held in Tiverton and Honiton in southwest England on the same day. The Conservative stronghold is expected to fall to the Liberal Democrats, according to bookmakers. Both votes were triggered by Tory MPs stepping down over separate sex scandals.

The prime minister will this week attempt to shift the focus to the government’s efforts to tackle the backlog built up in the National Health Service during the pandemic.

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