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3 September 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 5:45pm

Bruising defeat for Boris Johnson sends UK towards an election and remodels the Tory party

By Stephen Bush

MPs have voted to take control of the legislative timetable by 328 votes to 301 in a stinging rebuke to Boris Johnson. Despite the threat of losing the whip, 21 Conservative MPs rebelled, ensuring Johnson’s first vote as Prime Minister ended in defeat. A series of major Conservative figures, including Ken Clarke, Greg Clark, David Gauke, Justine Greening, Philip Hammond and Rory Stewart opted to end their parliamentary careers to prevent the government pursuing a no-deal Brexit. 

It puts the country on course for a general election – Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that Labour will support an election as soon as the bill to mandate an extension is in law, and Johnson has made it equally clear that in the event of the bill becoming law he will seek a fresh contest.

It caps off a bruising first day back from the parliamentary recess for Johnson and underlines the extent to which his successful summer was simply a result of his parliamentary problem being out of view, rather than having been resolved.

But he has been handed the opportunity to remake his party. Conservative members are highly likely to select candidates closer in spirit to him than the 21 rebels, and while some of them are unlikely to be re-elected, most will be. 

While Johnson may have lost control of parliament, he has been given an opportunity to deepen his control and his influence over his party.