Boris Johnson has held on as British Prime Minister – but a crunch confidence vote shows he has lost support of almost half of his party.
The results showed 211 Conservative MPs backed the PM.
The other 148 – that’s 41.2 per cent – voted against his leadership.
“This result is lower than the 63 per cent received by Theresa May during her leadership challenge in 2018,” the BBC reports.
Mr Johnson said his government could now “move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people”.
“I’m grateful to colleagues and the support they’ve given me,” he said.
“What we need to do now is come together as a government and a party.”
Mr Johnson faced a confidence vote after a growing number of lawmakers in his Conservative Party questioned the British leader’s authority following what has been dubbed the “partygate” scandal.
A majority of the 359 Conservative lawmakers – at least 180 – would have had to vote against Mr Johnson for him to be removed.
Mr Johnson, who scored a sweeping election victory in 2019, has been under growing pressure after he and staff held alcohol-fuelled parties at the heart of power when Britain was under strict lockdowns to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday morning (Australian time) the deciding politicians came together to cast their votes.
Two hours later, just after 6am, MP Sir Graham Brady said: “I can announce that the parliamentary party does have confidence in the prime minister”.
Party-guest PM booed over ‘partygate’
Underlining the depth of anger, Mr Johnson was met with a chorus of jeers and boos – and some muted cheers – at events to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in recent days.
On Monday, the once seemingly unassailable Mr Johnson was also lambasted by ally Jesse Norman, a former junior minister who said the 57-year-old prime minister staying in power insulted both the electorate and the party.
“You have presided over a culture of casual law-breaking at 10 Downing Street in relation to COVID,” he said, adding the government had “a large majority, but no long-term plan”.
Mr Norman is one of a growing number of Conservative lawmakers to publicly say that Mr Johnson has lost his authority to govern Britain, which is facing rising prices, the risk of recession and strike-inflicted travel chaos in the capital London.
Colleagues turn against PM
“Today’s decision is change or lose,” he said. “I will be voting for change.”
Mr Johnson’s anti-corruption chief John Penrose resigned. “I think it’s over. It feels now like a question of when not if,” he told Sky News.
A spokesperson for Mr Johnson’s Downing Street office said the vote would “allow the government to draw a line and move on”.
“The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs (members of parliament) and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force.”
Mr Johnson, a former London mayor, rose to power as the face of the Brexit campaign in a 2016 referendum.
He has locked horns with Brussels over Northern Ireland, raising the prospect of more barriers for British trade and alarming leaders in Ireland, Europe and the US about risks to the province’s 1998 peace deal.
Before the vote, supporters had been been at pains to point out what they describe as the highpoints of Mr Johnson’s administration – saying Britain’s quick rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations and its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved the prime minister could take the “big decisions”.
“I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the COVID backlogs,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter in a choreographed expression of support.
In letters sent out to Conservative lawmakers, Mr Johnson also made the same point, urging them to support him.
Mr Johnson, or his possible successor, face a raft of problems. British households are confronted by the biggest cost-of-living squeeze since records began in the 1950s, with food and fuel prices surging while wages lag.
For some Conservatives, Mr Johnson is guilty of squandering a large majority, unable or unwilling to set the agenda after becoming hamstrung by scandals.