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Boris Johnson hangs on as UK prime minister

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By Shella Artillero - - 5 Mins Read

On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a vote of confidence, but anger with his leadership is anticipated to continue, with pundits predicting that his days in power are short.

Johnson received the support of the majority of his Conservative lawmakers in Monday's vote, but by a considerably smaller margin than his supporters had hoped.

211 Conservative MPs voted in favor of the prime minister, while 148 voted against him, in a vote initiated by his own legislators amid growing discontent with his leadership.

Johnson required a simple majority of 180 MPs to win the vote, but the result of 148 was lower than many expected, indicating that more than 40% of his own parliamentarians do not trust him, despite his best efforts to garner their support.

When compared to former Prime Minister Theresa May, Johnson's vulnerability is highlighted. In a comparable poll in 2018, she received more votes, but she resigned as Prime Minister barely six months later.

Many MPs will now be studying the public opinion of Johnson in order to determine whether he is the best candidate to lead the party into the next general election, which must be held before January 2025.

Support for the Conservative Party will be put to the test in two by-elections later this month in West Yorkshire and Devon.

Current party rules imply Johnson can't face another confidence vote for a year after surviving the first, but analysts think the anti-Johnson movement could grow large enough to overturn those laws.


Days are 'counted'

While Johnson has shown no signs of resigning, calling for unity, and vowing to "bash on" after the vote, many say his leadership is shaky.

According to Kallum Pickering, senior economist of Berenberg Bank, his days are "numbered."

"Based on current Conservative Party rules, Johnson cannot be challenged for another 12 months, but it does not mean his government is back to business as usual," Pickering wrote late Monday.

"Even if Johnson has survived today, it is difficult to see how he can regain his former MPs' support; unless Johnson shows a major improvement in the polls in the coming months, Johnson is likely to face future leadership challenges."

"The possibility of a weaker economy this summer, as well as poor outcomes in impending by-elections... might yet swing the pendulum back against Johnson," he noted.

The "partygate" issue — and if Johnson intentionally deceived Parliament (which he denies) over the catastrophe — has led key members of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party to express amazement that Johnson has refused to resign.

"Anybody else would have gone by now," Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP's parliamentary group in the House of Commons and one of Johnson's most outspoken detractors, said of the prime minister.

"This is far from done, and I expect the prime minister to resign at some point." I don't think he'll run in the next election. On Tuesday, he told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick, "We've got a lame-duck prime minister."

Is Johnson capable of turning the tide?

Discontent with Johnson's leadership grew when a report last month harshly criticized the prime minister and senior employees following a series of Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties at Johnson's Downing Street office and apartment.

Despite this, supporters of the prime minister laud him for "getting Brexit done" and supervising the government's response to the Covid epidemic, particularly the quick vaccine procurement and deployment.

According to JPMorgan economist Allan Monks, Johnson now has the chore of appeasing rebel MPs, a challenge he'll likely address with changes in fiscal policy and people.

"While he has promised to 'bang on' and is likely to stay in power in the short term, the vote raises major question on his leadership," Monks said late Monday.

"While we doubt that present party regulations stating that Johnson cannot face another leadership challenge for a period of twelve months will be changed, he might face another formal challenge soon after." Meanwhile, if his inner circle turns against him, he may be compelled to quit," Monks warned.

Johnson is also expected to reveal fresh policy ideas in a bid to sway both the Conservative Party and public opinion. "The most obvious would be to offer large tax cuts and further giveaways, perhaps at the Conservative Party conference in October," he continued.

According to Monks, Johnson’s longer-term future is likely to depend on how these measures are received by party members and voters.