Britain’s Conservative rebels have vowed to continue trying to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of office, as his allies admit he is reaching the “beginning of the end” following Monday’s devastating internal vote.
The internal motion against Johnson represents a radical change of the conservatives towards the prime minister
Johnson’s fight to hold his divided party together will intensify as some of the 148 MPs – 40% – who voted against him declare themselves “implacably opposed” to his role as prime minister.
They will put pressure on him when the next ‘partygate’ investigation is launched, due to start in a few weeks, into whether the president misled Parliament by denying any COVID rules were broken at Downing Street.
Several rebel MPs boast that the operation to support the prime minister has been “appalling” and appears to be collapsing under the weight of Monday’s rebellion, meaning Johnson is now “on loan”. The division between those who support and those who oppose Johnson threatens to derail Downing Street’s attempts to end this humiliating episode.
“A victory is a victory”
Although most of the deputies Tories supported the prime minister, a significant number voted for his removal in the secret ballot held by the so-called 1922 Committee. The result was reminiscent of the internal vote held in 2018, when Theresa May won the support of two-thirds of her party but was irreparably damaged.
Government sources insist Johnson’s margin of victory doesn’t matter, with one cabinet member saying “a win is a win.” They argue that, given the result, the rebels must “change the rules or keep their mouths shut.”
Other Johnson allies say drastic measures are needed to restore discipline, such as firing anyone on the government payroll who was conspicuously silent on Monday as colleagues tweeted their support for the prime minister. Although deputies were prohibited from taking photos of their ballot to prove they had voted for Johnson, many were asked to make public statements.
Another measure defended by high officials Tories is to expel half a dozen “hardcore” rebels accused of undermining Johnson and boosting the campaign to impeach him from the conservative group. The idea is said to have the support of key figures in the prime minister’s “support group”, made up of his most trusted colleagues.
“The beginning of the end”
But such moves could further inflame an already toxic atmosphere in the party, which Johnson warned before the vote risked spilling over into civil war.
a deputy tory who voted against Johnson says his supporters “need some lessons in making friends and influencing people” because “they’re not arm-in-arms and trying to understand each other, they’re just being downright obnoxious and threatening.”
Several express concern about the pending Privileges Commission investigation into whether Johnson misled Parliament. They fear it will drag on for months and be dogged by new leaks from new parties during Downing Street’s pandemic restrictions.
A senior Johnson ally also admitted Monday night that they believe his administration was “nearing the beginning of the end” because his opponents are “relentlessly against it” and determined to bring him down in any way they can.
Even though party rules give Johnson a 12-month extension so he won’t face another internal vote, his opponents are likely to try to cut him in half and increase pressure for him to resign.
They hope the losses in the next two House of Commons by-elections this month will help convince more colleagues that Johnson has become an electoral liability that will lead the party to defeat in the next general election.
Some are optimistic that members of the government can be persuaded to resign later in order to further pressure the prime minister. However, potential party leadership hopefuls and their teams are likely to continue to fly under the radar, with no obvious candidate to take over from Johnson.
Some of the prime minister’s loyalists are also using the threat of a snap general election. They believe that it has a democratic mandate that should not be annulled by the deputies and they maintain that the Government should once again focus on fulfilling its “level up” program, whose objective, according to the Executive, is to reduce economic disparities in the country.
Since the Tories failed to lead any national poll since December, campaign strategists are desperate to refocus on work to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and delayed operations of the UK’s National Health Service United Kingdom, as well as in supporting Ukraine in its efforts to expel the invading Russian forces.
Meanwhile, members of the Labor Party are confident that the hype around Johnson will only cause the Conservatives’ popularity to plummet further and are happy to let “chaos break loose”.
Translation of Lara Lema