Boris Johnson remains UK prime minister — but his days are ‘numbered’
Johnson will be visiting Northern Ireland Monday for emergency talks.
Getty Images| Afp | Getty Images
LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a vote of confidence on Monday night but discontent over his leadership is expected to rumble on, with analysts stating that his days in office are numbered.
Johnson was able to win support from most Conservative legislators on Monday. However, it came down to a narrower margin than his supporters expected.
The vote — triggered by his own lawmakers amid increasing dissatisfaction in his leadership — saw 211 Tory MPs voting in favor of the prime minister, while 148 voted against him.
Johnson needed a simple majority of 180 MPs to win the vote, but the figure of 148 was worse than many expected and means that over 40% of his own lawmakers have no confidence in the prime minister —despite his efforts to win their support.
Johnson’s vulnerability stands out when compared with the former leader Theresa May. She had more support in a similar vote in 2018 — but resigned as prime minister just six months later.
Many MPs will be analyzing public sentiment toward Johnson in order to determine if he is the best leader for the party to move forward to the next general elections, which must take place prior to January 2025.
The Conservative Party’s support will soon be tested in the two By-Elections in West Yorkshire, and Devon this month.
Current party rules state that Johnson — having survived the confidence vote — cannot face another for 12 months, but analysts say the rebellion against Johnson could grow so large that those rules are changed.
“[The vote]It was closer than Boris Johnson and his allies anticipated, or hoped,” Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London’s Politics Department, said to CNBC Monday.
While we can assume the Conservatives will lose one or both of these by-elections to the Conservatives in some way, we cannot minimize its impact. He said that they will concern many MPs with smaller majority seats. “I believe the main metric for many MPs is the polls. They will be looking at Boris Johnsons personal ratings… as well as the gap between them & the Labour Party.”
Bale stated that if the gap between Johnson and the main opposition party grows, Conservative rebels may “come back to get more” in order to try to take on Johnson once again.
The days are “numbered”
While Johnson has shown no signs of being ready to resign — following the vote he called for unity and vowed to “bash on” — analysts say his leadership looks vulnerable.
Kallum Pickering is the senior economist at Berenberg Bank. He believes his days have come to an end.
Johnson can’t be challenged in the next 12 months, according to current Conservative Party rules. Pickering stated in a last night note that this doesn’t mean the government is going back to normal business.
Johnson is still alive today but it is difficult to believe that he could win back the once-supporting support of his MPs. Johnson’s leadership will likely face new challenges unless he makes a significant improvement in polls over the next months.
He said, “The possibility of an worsening economic situation over the summer and bad results at upcoming by-elections… could swing Johnson’s hand yet.”
Johnson, can you turn the tides?
After Johnson’s death, Johnson’s leadership became more dissatisfying. a report was released last month heavily criticizing the prime minister and other officials following a number of Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties at Johnson’s office and residence in Downing Street.
Yet, the Prime Minister’s loyalists praise him for getting Brexit “done” and for overseeing government’s response against the Covid pandemic.
Johnson must now placate rebel MPs. He’s expected to do this with changes in fiscal policy, personnel and other economic measures, according to J.P. Morgan economist Allan Monks.
Monks observed late Monday that “while he pledged to bash on’ and will likely remain in office in the short term, the vote casts considerable doubt about his tenure in leadership.”
We doubt that there will be any changes in current party rules that Johnson can’t receive another leadership role for 12 months. However, Johnson could face another formal challenge right after. “And in the interim, he may still have to resign should his inner circle turn against him,” Monks observed.
Johnson would likely announce policy changes to try to win over both the Conservative party as well as public opinion, he said.
“The best would be for any fiscal policy remaining to promise substantial tax cuts, and further giveaways at the Conservative Party Conference in October,” he said.
Monks says Johnson’s long-term future will depend on the reception of these measures by voters and party members.