No doubt now – The MP arithmetic marks the end for Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, his colleague, won a no confidence vote by a margin that was 211 to 148 one month ago today.

The outcome was not conclusive.  To remove the prime minister from office in any future contest, 31 more Conservative MPs would have to change their minds.

Since that date, there have been two Conservative by-election defeats, the resignation of two of the most senior cabinet ministers, and a whole raft of fresh questions as to the prime minister’s honesty and integrity in light of the Chris Pincher affair.

It is now certain that 31 Conservative MPs who were previously supportive of Mr Johnson have changed their mind about him.


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This is not just conjecture, whispered conversations at Westminster or whispered conversations. Many Johnson loyalists have now publicly changed positions.

This is an MP by MP analysis by politics.co.uk. At the time of the last no confidence vote here’s a selection of former loyal MPs who turned against Mr Johnson overnight.

Robert Halfon
Conservative MP for Harlow, a former Boris supporter, who today has released a statement on his website in which he said, ‘I was previously against any leadership change… gave the prime minister the benefit of the doubt before…. I can’t bring myself to do this again and refuse to do so”.

Bim Afolami
Young Conservative MP for Hitchin & Harpenden. He had previously tweeted his support for fellow old Etonion Boris Johnson on the day of the no confidence vote, having vigorously defended Boris Johnson in a ‘Talk TV’ interview on 31st May. Last night he resigned as a Conservative Vice Chair live on air, saying, “I just don’t think the prime minister has, not just my support, but the support of the party or the country”.

Andrew Murrison
Veteran South West Wiltshire MP. He wrote an article in the Guardian earlier in the year in which he described himself as a ‘serial Boris’ supporter. However resigning from a trade role last night, he now wrote, “Others must square, as best they can, their continuing enjoyment of your patronage with their personal sense of decency, honour and integrity but I no longer can”.

Chris Skidmore
Conservative MP for Kingswood near Bristol who has now sent a letter to Sir Graham Brady in which he said, “The Members of Parliament voted to retain the prime minister without knowing what we know now. Had we known, it would be highly unlikely that the party would have confidence in someone who was acting in this manner”.

Bhatti, Saqib 
Leave supporting Meriden in Midlands MP. Tweeted his support for the PM on the day of the no confidence vote, but last night resigned as a PPS saying, “my conscience will not allow me to continue to support this administration”.

Nicola Roberts
Young Conservative MP from West Bromwich East. She made it clear that she was not part in a rebellion against the PM earlier in the spring, publicly praising him on getting Brexit done and dealing the pandemic. Last night she resigned as a PPS saying that the government’s focus is “skewed by poor judgment that I don’t wish to be associated with”.

Jonathan Gullis
Red Wall MP from Stoke on Trent North. A former loyal supporter of the PM, he suggested previously on Twitter that those who submitted no confidence letters to Boris Johnson were actually resigning. Last night he resigned as a PPS and accused the government of being “more focused on dealing with our reputational damage rather than delivering for the people of this country”.

Beyond this morning’s ministerial resignations, many of whom probably did not actually back Mr Johnson’s in June’s vote, the above sample of former supportive MPs is more significant.

It gives a sense of the changing tides within parliamentary Conservative party, even among Boris supporters.

Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990 after her cabinet ministers told her that she was unlikely to win the next no confidence vote. The cabinet was not the final word on the prime minister, but parliamentary arithmetic.

Margaret Thatcher, despite being persuaded overnight by Dennis, realized that she couldn’t win over her parliamentary party. Worse, she could have opened the door for Michael Heseltine, her arch-enemy, if she stayed on.

This morning, the paralllels were not identical.

There is no Michael Heseltine waiting in the wings to sharpen the focus of Mr Johnson’s attention.

This time, the prime minister’s partner is not a “politics tired golf lover” like Dennis, but an active politico and strategist.

The cabinet of 1990 contained many independent politicians who were willing to expose the truth to the prime minister. Today, the cabinet is full of people who almost all owe their political career to Mr Johnson. Many would be unlikely to share a similar position with any other Conservative leader.

However, the parliamentary arithmetic in 2022 and 1990 is very similar.

Mrs Thatcher won her first leadership ballot by 204 votes to152. This margin is very similar to Mr Johnson’s last month. It took 26 colleagues to change the mind when it became apparent that Mrs Thatcher had been mortally wounded.

For Johnson, the numbers are even more stark after thirty years.

It is surprising that Johnson has not yet woken to the facts this morning. Not least because of the ongoing reputational damage that may affect his future earnings potential while he was away from office.

Maybe Johnson already knows this.  Maybe he will announce his resignation at prime minister’s questions in a few minutes time, and before his appearance at the liaison committee.

All the noises emanating from Downing Street up to now have emphasised his desire for continued.

Rumours have it that the prime minister stated that a crane would be necessary to remove him form Downing Street.

But these words don’t mean much.

The crane is now outside because of the changing MP arithmetic.