Future far from secure after Boris Johnson survives no-confidence vote

Boris Johnson won the no-confidence vote on Monday. Credit: PA

As expected Boris Johnson has survived a confidence vote in his leadership of the Conservative Party, but with an uncomfortably small margin that could still prove fatal.

As far as rebellions go, this was big. 148 of his own MPs - more than 40% of the Tory party in Parliament - want him gone.

That’s more the Theresa May faced in 2018, bigger than John Major in 1995 and Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

All three leaders eventually suffered the same fate following confidence vote victories.

Boris Johnson must now do what he has done throughout his career and defy political gravity.

Chair of the 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady announced Boris Johnson's victory. Credit: PA

His allies were quick out of the blocks following Monday night’s result to insist he has earned the right to lead the party, urging colleagues to move on.

One did his best to talk up the result - arguing the PM now has “more” support from Tory MPs than he did when he won the leadership contest in 2019 when 51% of the parliamentary party voted for him to be leader.

Another backbencher backing Mr Johnson said it was higher than the 52% that voted for Brexit in 2016.

Both MPs know such analogies are tenuous at best and attempt to spin what will be seen by most in the party as a hollow victory.

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Anything over 100 rebels is not good. Attention in the short-term turns to potential ministerial resignations in the coming days. 

The size of the rebellion is simply impossible to ignore.

The win buys Boris Johnson time, but it does not bury the story.

Conservative Party rules mean in theory the PM is now safe from a leadership challenge for 12 months, but that rule can be changed easily and quickly if the mood turns even more sour.

A threat to do just that eventually forced Theresa May to announce her resignation in 2019, six months after surviving a confidence vote.

There are big challenges still ahead.

Boris Johnson faces two by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton at the end of June, which he is currently predicted to lose, and a Parliamentary inquiry into whether he misled Parliament.

Boris Johnson’s pitch to MPs ahead of the vote extolled his past electoral success, pointing to the number of times he’s been written off and underestimated only to come back and defy the odds.

Only two and a half years ago he won the biggest Conservative majority since Thatcher. Now he faces the challenge of his political life to come back from this.