LONDON: UK PM Boris Johnson may have survived the no-confidence vote on Monday by the skin of his teeth, but he faces choppy waters ahead. He will have to contend with a privileges committee probe into whether he misled the House of Commons, two difficult byelections, Tory rebels plotting to change party rules to allow a second challenge to his leadership before the current 12-month limit, and the possibility of his Cabinet resigning.
The privileges committee, a House of Commons select committee, will soon begin its investigation into whether he misled the House with statements he made on the floor of the House about parties in Downing Street during lockdown. The police subsequently handed out 126 fines for lockdown breaches in Downing Street, including one fine to Johnson. The committee report will state whether the PM’s statements on lockdown parties in Downing Street “amount to contempt of the House”. If the committee finds it does, the report will recommend sanctions. The report then gets referred back to the House, which will make a final decision on whether there should be sanctions and, if so, what they would be.
The Tories could also face a catastrophic defeat in byelections in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton on June 23, which will put further pressure on Johnson. These byelections were triggered after both sitting Conservative MPs resigned in disgrace. Imran Ahmad Khan, the first British MP from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, resigned after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy whilst Neil Parish resigned after admitting watching porn in the House of Commons chamber. Bookmakers expect the Conservatives to lose Wakefield to Labour and Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats.
Meanwhile, the 148 rebel MPs who voted against Johnson are planning their next move.
Although under the current rules Johnson cannot face another leadership challenge for 12 months, one Tory rebel told TOI that they planned to overturn this after the byelection results. The MP said that all that was needed was for a majority of the 1922 committee to vote to change the rules to allow a second confidence vote to take place within 12 month, and if they moved that motion the rebels would also win the no-confidence vote and force Johnson’s resignation. “The Cabinet could also all resign and make his position untenable. I am disappointed they haven’t. We only need 32 more MPs to join us,” the rebel said.
Some Conservative MPs are worried Johnson will lead the party to a catastrophic defeat in the 2024 general election. Views are mixed on whether Johnson will survive. Conservative MP Roger Gale said: “I would be surprised if he is still in No. 10 by the end of the Autumn.” But Conservative MP Lee Anderson said Johnson had been “subjected to a massive witch-hunt led by the BBC and the Labour party”.
Johnson appeared unfazed by the confidence vote and told his Cabinet on Tuesday that he was “drawing a line” under the issues his opponents want to talk about and was going to focus on easing the cost of living crisis and talking about what the people of the country want to talk about. He told the Cabinet to focus on tax cuts, cutting the costs of government, cutting the costs businesses face, and cutting cost of living. He said “Partygate” was a “media obsession”.





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