Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Conservatives
2 February 2022

Will Boris Johnson soon face a confidence vote after all?

Tory MPs may decide that they can’t continue to look this ridiculous and that the whole sorry affair needs to be brought to an end.

By Stephen Bush

A trickle that becomes a flood? Peter Aldous, the Conservative MP for Waveney and one of the most consistently loyal backbenchers in the parliamentary party (there is no major issue on which he has split with any of the three prime ministers he has served) is the latest MP to announce publicly that he has written a letter to Graham Brady calling for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. And this morning Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence select committee, told Sky News that he will be submitting his letter in short order. 

Every one of these letters gets us closer to the magic 15 per cent (that’s 54 Conservative MPs as it stands), and of course, most MPs won’t announce their intentions as Aldous has. It all feels very similar to Theresa May’s position in November 2018: she had survived the initial organised attempt to trigger a vote of no confidence, but in December enough letters had trickled in to trigger a vote on her leadership.  

The emergence of more claims about Downing Street parties today – the Telegraph and the Guardian both report that Johnson attended two further parties, which included a “Prosecco-fuelled” leaving do for a Downing Street official and take the number of gatherings the Prime Minister allegedly attended to six – adds to the feeling that sooner or later, enough bad news stories will ensure that the 54-letter threshold is met.  

Now, the argument that Johnson loyalists make at this point is: given that most Conservative MPs are at best agnostic about the available candidates to replace the Prime Minister, Johnson would survive any confidence vote. That’s certainly possible, but it could also go the other way, with Conservative MPs deciding that they can’t continue to look ridiculous and that the whole sorry affair needs to be brought to an end.  

Boris Johnson’s big hope is that ambitious plans to “level up” the United Kingdom and to offer rebates on energy bills (to be clawed back by the energy companies from bill-payers in later years) will change the mood music around the government. And, again, it’s possible – but if in a month’s time the government is still on the back foot and the polls still look awful, the Prime Minister’s position could worsen, suddenly and drastically. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs

Topics in this article: