Boris Johnson wins no-confidence vote—what happens now?

Boris Johnson scraped to victory in last night’s vote of no confidence, following months of speculation regarding his backing among his own MPs.

211 (roughly 59%%) MPs voted for him to stay in No 10, while 148 (41%%) voted to get rid of him.

But while Johnson ultimately won yesterday’s vote, he has performed worse than several previous Conservative leaders whose reputation never recovered from the challenge posed by their MPs.

We have now considered some of the possibilities that Johnson might face.


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  1. 1. Johnson steps down

Johnson has made it clear that Johnson does not plan to leave the country anytime soon.

Speaking to Sky News after last night’s win, the prime minister even seemed to suggest his position has improved given that he was supported by almost 60 per cent of Conservative MPs compared to 51 per cent in the 2019 leadership election,

Many MPs are still calling for his resignation, and others may soon follow their lead.

With the support of 63% of her MPs, Theresa May won a no confidence vote in 2018.

She resigned however in June 2019, after the 1922 commission warned of a change to allow a new vote of no confidence. 

The same system was used for John Major’s 1995 campaign to become a leader, which he lost following his resignation.

Before Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as PM, in 1990, she was supported by 54% her MPs. In contrast to previous voting rules, around 40% voted against her and 4.3% abstaining.

While many MPs’ complaints regarding the PM centre on his personal reputation rather than his legislative agenda- as with May’s Brexit plans- his future is far from certain.

Johnson would be allowed to continue in his post if he announced his intention to resign while a new leader of the Conservative party is elected by members.

If he decided to step down immediately, an interim PM would need to be chosen, most likely Dominic Raab as deputy PM.

According to the latest ConservativeHome poll, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary is the most popular Tory minister at 80 percent favorability.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss is second at 67 pc, while Nadhim Zhawi trails her slightly on 65.

Penny Mordaunt, trade minister, is also believed to be engaged in leadership maneuvers. Tom Tugendhat, foreign affairs select committee chair and Jeremy Hunt are also reported to be involved.

  1. 2. 1922 Committee invents new contest-Johnson loses

Under the 1922 committee’s current rules, Johnson’s victory in yesterday’s vote means he cannot face a vote of no confidence for another year.

However, new rules may be adopted if the tide shifts among MPs. 

While the rules surrounding the “no confidence” process are not published in the public domain, the Institute of Government says the rules can be changed at any time by the executive of the 1922 committee in consultation with the Conservative Party board.

At first glance, the executive office of the 1922 committee appears to be populated with MPs such as Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brownn, Nus Gambrook, Gary Sambrook and William Wragg. All of these MPs have made harsh criticisms about Boris Johnson.

Two byelections in Wakefield, Tiverton, and Honiton will be held soon by the Conservatives. They will take place on 23 June.

These seats are likely to see a lackluster performance, which could prompt more complaints from Conservative MPs.

Ministerial resignations, which some sources suggest are on the horizon, could also diminish Johnson’s chances of regaining backbench backing.

Johnson would be prohibited from participating in a leadership contest if the prime Minister loses a future no confidence vote.

  1. 3. Johnson calls for a snap vote

Speaking with Sky News just moments after yesterday’s results were announced by Sir Graham Brady, Johnson stressed that he was “certainly not interested in snap elections”.

British voters would be wise not to dismiss his claims. After months of arguing that an electoral vote would create chaos during a time when politics are uncertain, Theresa May announced that a snap elections would take place in June 2017.

Bloomberg was just last week reported that two Conservative MPs had divulged how the idea of seeking a new mandate from voters following a no-confidence vote was “being openly discussed by lawmakers”.

To allow an early general election, at least two-thirds must back the plans (at least 434 of 650).

A Savanta ComRes poll released last week put Labour up 2 points to 42 per cent, with Johnson’s Conservatives down three points on 31 per cent.

Based on current estimates, this polling would translate in to a 24-seat Labour majority should a general election take place.

Johnson and his team will likely resort to calling an early election due to the possibility of losing so many seats.

  1. 4. Johnson remains until 2024

Complex speculations are sure to make for more interesting reading. However, Johnson may be able to avoid further concern from his MPs by clinging to his leadership position until the next general elections on 2 May 2024.

The shape of the Conservative party is not the only thing that is difficult to predict for the next general election.