Boris Johnson: For the moment he remains in office, but is he really in power? | Political news

It was a vote the prime minister was desperate to avoid.

And when it came, the one Boris Johnson was keen to quickly put behind him, calling for a vote as soon as possible after the trigger threshold (54 letters of censure) had been reached, and then declare the result “decisive” and “convincing” once it was over.

Mr Johnson is a leader who is clear he has won and who wants to put an end to this whole sad saga and move on.

But the prime minister also knows, despite his bravado, that 148 MPs saying they don’t trust his leadership is a blow.

His supporters are privately disappointed, and they should be. Boris Johnson’s victory on Monday was less convincing than Theresa May’s vote of confidence in 2018 when she had the support of 63% of her MPs compared to 59% for the current Prime Minister. Six months after that vote, Ms May was forced to resign.

To really have had any hope of turning the page on Monday, the prime minister would have needed far more support than this.

Read more:
Conservative votes of confidence by the numbers
Tory MPs back the PM, but only narrowly – so what now?
Boris Johnson survives for now… But who will be the favorites for his job if the Prime Minister’s time runs out?

Others point out that although the Prime Minister survived the vote, his protection is not guaranteed. While under current rules an incumbent prime minister shouldn’t have to face another challenge for 12 months, there’s nothing stopping MPs from sending letters again and asking the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady to change the rules if the situation deteriorates significantly in the coming months. Such an approach has already been considered.

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Prime Minister “not interested” in early elections

But what is perhaps the key question is how sustainable Mr Johnson’s leadership is now, whatever the specifics of Conservative Party rules.

The fact that 148 of your own MPs decide they don’t trust you matters whether or not it reaches an action threshold.

How will the Prime Minister direct his program of government if even a part of these rebels decide to strike? Forty serial rebels are enough to deprive the Prime Minister of his majority in the House of Commons, and with it his ability to push through any legislation.

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Gale: PM should consider position

The only thing this vote really settles are the contours of the Conservative Party’s internal civil war. The rebels appear emboldened and unintimidated, with a senior official telling me shortly after the vote that now was “time for the cabinet to show some leadership and realize that the game is over for the prime minister.”

Just two and a half years ago, Mr Johnson won that landslide victory and in that time he has gone from almighty to deeply damaged, from untouchable to badly tarnished, from adored to despised – or worse. It’s hard to see how he’s recovering, even though he’s limping.

His allies like to say never to deregister Boris Johnson, but history tells us Tory leaders never clean up the mess of a confidence vote once it happens, regardless of the outcome. For the moment he remains in power, but is he really in power?

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