Vote of no confidence: What happens if Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins?

Boris Johnson is facing a confidence motion amongst his own MPs, but will finish the day weakened and still in peril even if he survives the ordeal.

History of Conservative party confidence motions suggest that once a Prime Minister has reached the point where they may face one, they are already mortally wounded.

Mr Johnson himself led the charge against his predecessor Theresa May, who discovered it was impossible to continue and later stepped down.

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In 1995, John Major called the bluff of his Eurosceptic internal opponents and won, but went on to lose the next election in 1997 heavily to a resurgent Labour Party led by Tony Blair.

Margaret Thatcher, the victim of the most famous moment of mutiny within the Conservative Party, was victorious in the first round of leadership voting when up against Michael Heseltine.

Ahead of the second vote, which she was advised she would lose and facing imminent defeat, the Iron Lady stepped down and handed over the reigns to surprise candidate Mr Major.

In 2022, the rules facing the Prime Minister are different.

He faces no immediate challenger as a leadership contest follows the defeat of the incumbent rather than the party having an immediate choice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a vote of no confidence among Conservative MPsPrime Minister Boris Johnson faces a vote of no confidence among Conservative MPs
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a vote of no confidence among Conservative MPs

As it stands, another vote would not be able to be held within 12 months, but this could be changed by a simple majority vote of the 1922 Committee.

A victory, therefore, would see Mr Johnson safe in the short term, at least from immediate political downfall inflicted by his own party.

Wins confidence vote and has by-election success

This is the ideal scenario for Boris Johnson and arguably the one that would require a significant shift in the national political mood to come to fruition.

A comfortable win, one around the levels of Mr Major or Ms May, who won their votes with around two thirds of the party backing them, would likely calm some nerves within Number 10.

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What would calm those nerves further would be victory in the two coming by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.

Both take place in a fortnight on June 23 and will see the Conservatives defend the seats respectively vacated by Imran Ahmed Kahn, convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, and Neil Parish, who resigned after admitting to watching porn in Parliament.

In Wakefield, the Conservatives will hope to hold on to their 3,358-vote majority and their 24,239-vote majority in Tiverton and Honiton.

Should the party hold on to both, accusations Mr Johnson is no longer an election winner will hold less weight and he will feel little pressure to resign.

Wins confidence vote, but loses by-election(s)

Losing one or both of the two by-elections would be disastrous for Brand Boris for two different reasons.

Wakefield, held by Labour for the best part of 90 years before it turned blue in 2019, is a classic ‘red wall’ seat the Conservative party have built their brand of pure-Brexit politics around.

A recent poll by JL Partners for the Sunday Times suggests the seat will return to Labour, who are polling with a 20 per cent lead.

Losing this seat would call into question the Prime Minister’s ability to hold on to those seats at the next general election and would result in many MPs on slim majorities worrying about their future.

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In Devon, the Conservatives will be fearing a repeat of the North Shropshire result where the Liberal Democrats came from more than 52 per cent of the vote share behind to win.

The situation in Tiverton and Honiton is similar, with a smaller gap of 45 per cent.

A defeat here would worry Conservative MPs in the safest of seats across the UK.

Losing Wakefield or Tiverton and Honiton would be bad news for the Government.

Losing both would be catastrophic and the Prime Minister would be facing intense demands to stand down.

Wins confidence vote, loses by-election, calls early general election

Boris Johnson is fundamentally a survivalist. He will cling on to power until it is ripped away from him.

He is also a proven winner, especially when it goes against all expectations.

It is therefore not outside the realms of possibility to see the Prime Minister seek to strengthen this perception by calling an early general election.

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Losing the two by-elections may not prove fatal and Mr Johnson has shown he can battle on despite calls for his head.

But such a scenario would leave the Government struggling for authority as MPs concerned about their seats at the next election would be wavering in their support.

An early general election would certainly focus minds and give Mr Johnson the opportunity to strengthen his own perception.

The latest polling from YouGov suggests such a move would result in the Conservatives losing all bar three of 88 so-called ‘battleground’ seats, with pollsters suggesting Labour would be only a handful of seats short of an overall majority.

It would be a significant gamble for a Prime Minister throwing the last roll of the dice.

Privileges committee judges he breached ministerial code

Despite the publication of the damning Sue Gray report, Mr Johnson’s ordeal connected with Partygate is not yet over.

Should he survive the potential of two by-election defeats, he will instead be awaiting the results of the privileges committee’s probe into whether he knowingly misled the House of Commons and, in doing so, breached the ministerial code.

Such a finding is considered a resignation matter, but it would ultimately be the choice of the Prime Minister whether he chooses to step down.

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The committee is expected to report back to the House of Commons in the latter half of this year.

As with all of these scenarios, when the decision is in the hands of Mr Johnson, he tends to choose to fight on.

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