Welsh Conservatives come to terms with 'worst possible result' after Boris Johnson confidence vote

Boris Johnson is vowing to continue in post as leader. Credit: PA Images

Welsh Conservatives have been coming to terms with a new political reality - a world in which the deep divisions within the party are now out in the open, threatening both its chances in government in Westminster and its approach here in Wales.

Boris Johnson may have won last night's confidence vote and may be vowing to continue in post as leader, but the fact remains that an unexpectedly large number of his own MPs don't want him to be in charge anymore.

Those MPs can't be dismissed simply as embittered opponents of the Prime Minister. They represent all factions in the party, and many of them have taken the stance that they have because of what they've been hearing from their local party members.

At Westminster, expect the uncertainty to continue. One Welsh Conservative told me that Boris Johnson's "time is coming to an end" and advised me to "look out for ministerial resignations."

There was no sign of those when the cabinet met this morning in an attempt to portray a government getting back on with the job, but it's thought those who might be considering their position are now waiting for the results of two by-elections in England before making any move.

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Can the Prime Minister heal these divisions? 

One Welsh Tory activist, who has been a fervent Boris Johnson supporter for some time, told me that "he's got to pull the mother of all rabbits out of the hat to hold on" and pointed out that it is now clear that those not supporting the Prime Minister come from the right and the left wings of the party.

That's something picked up on by the former Welsh Secretary and former Tory leader, William Hague, who lives in Powys.

He wrote in the Times that  "the most striking aspect of this revolt has been the varied, almost random, nature of the MPs involved: right, left, centre, keen Brexiteers, moderate One Nation types, hardened old-timers and even some ambitious young thrusters."

He said the outcome of last night's vote was "the worst possible result" for the Conservative party.

"While Johnson has survived the night, the damage done to his premiership is severe," he added.

"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."

The Welsh Conservative leader says it's 'time to draw a line' under recent events in the party. Credit: PA Images

'Time to draw a line under this'

However, other senior figures in Wales are pushing for the party to heal divisions and reunite.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Colleagues in Westminster, irrespective of their vote tonight, need to respect the 2019 General Election result that put them into their Parliamentary seats and start the job of rebuilding trust and confidence in the Government’s ability to improve people’s lives, wherever they live.

"Now it’s time to draw a line under this, and get on with addressing the cost of living pressures people are facing."

During his second time as leader, Mr Davies has deliberately kept Welsh Conservative policy close to that of Boris Johnson, of whom he's been a strong supporter. If the wider party splits continue, that could become more difficult for him.

Six of the 13 Welsh Conservative MPs spoke publicly of their intention to support Boris Johnson. Credit: PA Images

'The public haven’t moved on and they won’t'

Yesterday, six of the 13 Welsh Conservative MPs spoke publicly of their intention to support Boris Johnson.

Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie hasn't revealed publicly how she voted last night. But today she said: "The Prime Minister won the confidence vote last night and now it's time to get behind him and work to tackle the challenges this country faces both at home and abroad.

"Boris Johnson is a fervent supporter of new nuclear power and I see this as my priority - spades in the ground for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa and all that means for jobs and investment on this island.

"All that really interests me is what is best for my constituents. I said I would bring jobs, opportunities and investment. This government headed by this Prime Minister is committed to doing just that in places like Ynys Môn that have been ignored by other political parties. It's time to get on with the job".

Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary, Jo Stevens, rejected the idea that people have "moved on" from the "partygate" fines for covid lawbreaking which triggered this confidence vote.

She tweeted: "The public haven’t moved on and they won’t. He’s lied to them and to parliament. Broken the laws he told everyone they had to follow to keep people safe and protect the NHS.

"This isn’t going away. Those Tory MPs who have kept him there are complicit in the dishonesty and denial".

Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary leader Liz Saville Roberts said that Welsh Conservative MPs should "reflect" on their priorities and warned that their internal party problems will now "pollute" wider politics.

She said: "Boris Johnson stays in post, but his authority as Prime Minister has already been shredded by this tired and threadbare victory.

"It speaks volumes that not one Welsh Tory MP openly called for Boris Johnson to resign. They must reflect tonight on whether it is respect for their constituents or fear of the Tory whips that drives them.

"A toxic Tory civil war will now continue to pollute our politics. Wales can do so much better than this Westminster horror show."