Boris Johnson has just insisted that he has had ‘an extremely positive’ and ‘decisive result’ in the vote of confidence in his leadership. He said the government can ‘come together’ and ‘put behind’ it all the rows of the past few months and ‘focus on the stuff that the public actually want us to be talking about’. Speaking in Downing Street a few minutes ago, the Prime Minister claimed that tonight’s result gave him a bigger mandate than the one he had won from his party in 2019. He was either suffering from a heavy head cold, or extremely emotional, as he kept sniffing and stumbling over his words.
But talking to Conservative MPs who voted against Johnson tonight, it is clear that they are determined that the result is the beginning of the end. Though they are not particularly well-organised as one group, their message is remarkably consistent: the Prime Minister no longer enjoys the support of such a large chunk of his party that he should resign anyway. It’s not just that they see there being more problematic revelations about the Prime Minister’s character coming in the form of the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he misled Parliament over whether parties took place in Downing Street. It’s also that they do not think he will be able to show any authority over his backbenchers on any vaguely difficult vote.
There are now rumours sweeping the party that there will be ministerial resignations tomorrow. It is worth pointing out that with a payroll vote of around 165, either 75 per cent of all Tory backbenchers voted against the Prime Minister or there were a lot of ministers and envoys who used the privacy of the secret ballot to state they had no confidence in him either. Not all of them – Penny Mordaunt being the most prominent example – have rushed to defend him in public today. Some of them will be considering their position and whether they think there is now even more momentum for the PM to go, despite him winning tonight.
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