PM says confidence vote win 'draws line' under Partygate but Hague says he should go

Where does Boris Johnson go from here? Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports

Boris Johnson has said his narrow confidence vote win allows the government to "draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about", despite still facing a Commons investigation looking into whether he lied to Parliament about Partygate.

The confidence vote - which he won with just 59% of the vote - was triggered by dozens of Tory backbenchers furious about his handling of the scandal which eventually saw him fined by police.

The PM claimed his win was "decisive" when speaking to broadcasters after scraping to victory on Monday night, but critics were quick to point out he won with a smaller majority than Theresa May in 2018.

Political scientist Jane Green on Boris Johnson's declining ratings and how Partygate has damaged his reputation

His predecessor was forced to step down just six months after winning 63% of the vote and former Conservative leader William Hague says Mr Johnson should also "turn his mind to getting out" of Downing Street.

“While Johnson has survived the night, the damage done to his premiership is severe,” Lord Hague wrote in The Times.

“Words have been said that cannot be retracted, reports published that cannot be erased, and votes have been cast that show a greater level of rejection than any Tory leader has ever endured and survived.

“Deep inside, he should recognise that, and turn his mind to getting out in a way that spares party and country such agonies and uncertainties.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, was questioned about the Partygate scandal at Buckingham Palace where he was receiving the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

“It was really important at all stages that everyone stuck to the rules, there’s no question about that, it only works when people stick to them and it’s very disappointing that that wasn’t the case," Sir Patrick said when asked whether the scandal had tarnished his time working for the government. 

  • Sir Patrick Vallance: 'It was very disappointing that not everyone stuck to the rules'

What is Boris Johnson saying after the vote?

The PM told reporters in Downing Street: “I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

He rejected the assertion that he was now a lame duck prime minister who needed to call a snap election to secure a new mandate from the public, insisting he was focused on the public’s priorities.

He thanked his Cabinet on Tuesday morning for helping to secure his victory in the confidence vote.

"It was a very important day because we are able now to draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about and we are able to get on talking about the issues, what the issues that I think the people want... and what we are doing to help them and to take the country forward.

"That is what we are going to do. We are going to focus exclusively on that."

So is he safe? What next for the PM

The prime minister still has several hurdles to jump before he can really draw a line under the turmoil of the past few months.

  • By-elections

There are two by-elections in just two weeks - on June 23 - which could prove highly damaging for the PM if the Tories lose as many are predicting.

One is in a safe Tory seat and the other was won by the Conservatives in 2019 for the first time in 89 years.

If he were to lose both it would signal a huge change in public opinion since the PM's landslide win less than three years ago.

The Tories go into the Tiverton and Honiton by-election with the previous seat holder - Neil Parish, who resigned after watching pornography in the Commons - having had a huge 24,239 majority.

To lose that seat would be catastrophic for the Tories and could force those who support Mr Johnson to reconsider whether he really remains an electoral asset.

Losing Wakefield in West Yorkshire would be less damaging as the previous MP there - Imran Ahmad Khan, who resigned after being convicted of sex offences - had a much smaller majority of 3,358.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab sought to play down the impact of potential losses in the two Tory-held seats, claiming "governments of the day often lose by-elections to go on to win them at a general election".

  • Vote of no confidence in the government

The Liberal Democrats are pushing for a Commons confidence vote in the Prime Minister as a whole after Mr Johnson survived the Tory process.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: "Every Conservative MP who has a shred of decency must back our motion and finally give Johnson the sack."

The motion would be voted upon by all MPs in the Commons and if the government lost it would be forced to call a snap general election.

There is no date fixed for the move and it is unlikely to be successful due to the Tory majority which would not want to fight an election while public opinion appears to be against them.

  • Privileges Committee investigation could see PM expelled from Parliament

Mr Johnson is being investigated by Parliament's Privileges Committee which will assess whether he committed contempt of Parliament with his claims in the Commons that Covid rules were always followed in government.

Opposition MPs say police fines issued to him and dozens of his staff prove his assurances were dishonest but the PM claims he was unaware offences had been committed when speaking in Parliament.

Under the ministerial code - which has been signed by the PM - anyone in government found to have knowingly misled MPs is "expected to resign".

The Privileges Committee is able to recommend a number of punishments for contempt of parliament, including the power to imprison, or fine, however this has not happened in well over 100 years.

But there are some severe sanctions the Privileges Committee could recommend.

It could say Mr Johnson should be suspended from Parliament, or even expelled if it takes a critical enough view of his conduct.

If he is expelled from Parliament he would cease to be an MP, however he would not be banned from running for election again.

If he's suspended for more than two weeks he would face a recall petition which could result in him defending his seat at a by-election.

If 10% of his constituency backs a recall petition it would trigger a by-election.

However, all of this is unlikely because Mr Johnson's Commons majority is likely to block any investigation and even if they approved it, MPs would be required to agree on any proposed sanctions.

The Privileges Committee is not expected to report its conclusions to the House until the autumn.

  • Could Tory MPs force another confidence vote?

Under current Tory party rules he is safe from another confidence vote for a further year, however the 1922 Committee of backbencher Conservatives has the power to change those rules.

Deputy PM Raab did not appear concerned by the suggestion from ITV News that the rules could change.

He told Political Reporter Shehab Khan the rules are not easy to change, and in any case "fiddling the rules because you don't like the result is a bad look".

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