Not Many Are Buying Johnson's Post-Vote Spin

British PM celebrates surviving no-confidence vote, but history is not on his side
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2022 10:30 AM CDT
3 Precedents Don't Bode Well for Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his Cabinet on Tuesday.   (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP)

After surviving a no-confidence vote on Monday, Boris Johnson put the best possible face on things. The British prime minister called it an "extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result," one that would allow him to "move on," per the Guardian. What Johnson glossed over is that 41% of lawmakers in his own Conservative party have lost faith in him, and most of the post-mortems on the vote suggest he's still in big political trouble.

  • Precedent: Yes, Johnson will remain as prime minister. But Katy Balls notes in the New York Times that predecessor Theresa May survived her own no-confidence vote by an even bigger margin but was forced to resign six months later. Margaret Thatcher stepped down within days of her no-confidence victory, and while John Major remained in office after his, he and his party were destroyed in the general election two years later.

  • Takeaway: The "simple truth is when more than four in ten of your own MPs think the country would be better off without you, you have a problem," writes Chris Mason at the BBC. "That number—148—will hang around Boris Johnson's neck for ... some time."
  • How it's playing: Coverage in the British press generally reflects all of the above. The AP rounds up examples, including: "Hollow victory tears Tories apart" in the Daily Telegraph, the description of Johnson as "a wounded victor" in the UK Times, and this from the Daily Mirror: "Party's over, Boris."
  • The rules: Current parliamentary rules say Johnson's victory means he's safe from another such challenge for a year. But CNN points out that those rules can be changed at any time. In fact, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, one of Johnson's intra-party critics, tells Sky News that another no-confidence vote could happen in the fall: "I think we're talking a matter of months, up to party conference [at the beginning of October]."
  • A lesson? The "partygate" scandal has damaged Johnson badly, but the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal thinks his bigger problem is a mishandling of the economy. "The broader lesson is that parties of the right fail when they lose sight of the free-market policies that produce economic opportunity and growth," the editorial reads. "This is the mistake the new redistributionists on the American right want Republicans to make, cheered on by the progressive media. GOP presidential candidates might study Mr. Johnson's tribulations before they try it."
(More Boris Johnson stories.)

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