The head of the British government survived a vote of no confidence from the deputies of his Conservative Party on Monday provoked by rebellious exasperated scandals like the “partygate”, these parties in Downing Street during the anti-Covid confinements.
Even if he cannot be targeted by another motion of no confidence for a year, under the current rules, his delicate mission is to win over his troops and his electorate scalded by scandals and strangled by inflation, at the highest in 40 years.
During a council of ministers scheduled for the day, he will recall the priorities of his government in the coming weeks: health, security and the economy, in the midst of a purchasing power crisis.
“This is a government that achieves what matters most to the people of this country,” he must say, according to his services. “We’re on the side of the hard-working Brits and we’re going to get to work.”
Although he welcomed a “convincing” result in the secret ballot, more than four in ten MPs from his camp (148 of the 359 voters) said they did not trust in him, reflecting the extent of the malaise and the blow to his authority over his majority.
By comparison, former Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence motion in 2018 by a larger margin, before being forced to resign a few months later.
Boris Johnson therefore remains in a precarious position, as the newspapers pointed out on Tuesday.
“Injured Johnson is in danger”, headlined The i Paper while the left-wing newspaper The Guardian spoke of “humiliation”. On the Conservative side, The Telegraph says it’s a “paltry victory (which) divides the Tories”.
Anxious to restore his authority, the 57-year-old leader could reshuffle his government to reward his close allies and oust his most lukewarm supporters, according to the press.
Among the faithful, the Minister of Justice, Dominic Raab urged the rebels to “respect the vote” and called for “moving forward”, echoing the Prime Minister’s message.
Boris Johnson has “renewed energy” after “clearly” winning the vote, he told SkyNews.
But even if he survived, the damage is “considerable”, warned former Tory leader William Hague in The Times. “Words have been spoken that cannot be retracted, reports issued that cannot be erased and votes cast that show a level of rejection greater than ever for a Tory leader.”
Unconvinced by the results of the vote, rebellious MP Roger Gale said “a Prime Minister with a sense of honor would look at the numbers, accept the fact that he has lost the support of a significant part of his party and reflect on his position”.
Despite the relief of having convinced a majority of Tory MPs, Boris Johnson has not finished with the repercussions of the “partygate”.
After those of the police and senior civil servant Sue Gray, another investigation, this time parliamentary, is planned. If the latter concludes, a priori in the fall, that Boris Johnson deceived the House of Commons by claiming not to have broken the rules, he is supposed to resign.
Two by-elections on June 23 will also have test value for the conservative leader who dismissed the possibility of early legislative elections on Monday. The polls follow one another and are catastrophic for the majority, less and less convinced that its leader, triumphant at the polls in 2019, is the best placed to lead them to victory in the legislative elections of 2024.