Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Will Tory MPs remove Boris Johnson in no-confidence vote?

Since the vote is anonymous, it is difficult to predict how even the most loyal of Johnson’s supporters may vote.

By Zoë Grünewald

If you think you have that first-day-back-at-work feeling, imagine being the Prime Minister. The chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, has just announced that there will be a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson this evening.  

It’s hard to imagine a more disparate weekend for the country’s two figureheads. While the head of state bathed in four days of celebrations, well wishes and marmalade sandwiches, the head of government was met with jeers and booing as he attended the Platinum Jubilee on 3 June. After a week of intense speculation about the future of his premiership and the loyalty of his colleagues, Johnson may have hoped that the weekend’s festivities would unite the country and draw attention away from his partygate indiscretions. Instead, they further underlined his unpopularity – an observation that will be fresh in the minds of Conservative MPs as they reunite in Westminster this week.

Though it’s not uncommon for a politician to be heckled at a public event, the significance of the type of crowd that booed Johnson has not escaped political commentators. As one Labour source told the Guardian: “I don’t know if a Tory PM has ever been booed by a crowd of dedicated royalists before, but it feels a lot like he’s lost the dressing room.”

Johnson’s most loyal supporters are still publicly defending him. His Biggest Fan, the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, tweeted that there were “far more cheers” than boos (as if the incident hadn’t been broadcast live to every household in the country), while the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, warned us not to “over-interpret” the crowd’s discontent, whatever that means.

If the events at the jubilee weren’t bad enough for the PM, the Sunday Times reported that recent polling has given Labour a 20-point lead in the Red Wall seat of Wakefield, where there is a by-election on 23 June. This level of disapproval is sure to spook his more hesitant colleagues: they will see this indication of public anger as evidence that many voters aren’t ready to move on from partygate, as Johnson has so often claimed.

There had been whispers in Westminster for days that the threshold for no-confidence letters had been met. Tim Shipman wrote in the Sunday Times that one source thought up to 67 letters had been received by Brady, with only 54 needed to trigger a secret ballot. This morning’s announcement, along with the polls and the booing, should make Johnson very nervous about a successful Tory mutiny.

What can we expect this evening? The vote will take place between 6pm and 8pm, which gives rebels just a few hours of face-to-face lobbying time in parliament. This may stand in Johnson’s favour. He will presumably make phone calls with promises and threats, if he hasn’t started already. 180 colleagues (50 per cent plus one) would need to vote against Johnson to oust him, a threshold that rebels, in their current state, are unlikely to clear. However, it’s worth noting that because the vote is anonymous, it is difficult to predict how even the most loyal of Johnson’s supporters may vote. Public support and private support are two very different things.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

[See also: Jeremy Hunt: “Conservatives must not alienate suburban voters”]

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 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
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU