Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, will face a vote of no confidence on Monday that may lead to his removal from office, as anger with his reign finally threatens to bring down a politician who has frequently appeared invincible despite numerous scandals.
If Johnson loses the vote among the 359 Conservative legislators, the party will select a new leader who will become prime minister if Johnson loses the vote. Under existing party rules, if he wins, which looks more likely, he cannot face another challenge for one year, but a narrow victory would leave him a disabled leader whose days are likely numbered.
Regardless of the outcome, the fact that a sufficient number of lawmakers are seeking a vote is a turning point for Johnson. Less than three years after Johnson led the party to its most considerable election triumph in decades, this indicates the Conservative party's fundamental divisions.
Johnson's reputation as a successful candidate has previously shielded him from the consequences of an increasing series of scandals. Recent events, however, have made it difficult for him to move on from the disclosures that he and his team frequently enjoyed drunken parties in violation of the COVID-19 limits they placed on Britain in 2020 and 2021.
On Monday, Graham Brady, a representative of the Conservative Party, stated that he had received letters from at least 54 Tory MPs requesting a vote of no confidence, the number required by party rules to trigger the vote.
Brady stated, "The 15 percent threshold (of Conservatives in the House of Commons) has been surpassed." He noted that the vote would be held in the House of Commons on Monday evening, with the outcome published shortly after that.
The Downing Street office of Johnson stated that the prime minister welcomed the vote.
"Tonight is an opportunity to put an end to months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the priorities of the people," the statement read.
After a 10-day parliamentary recess that included a long weekend of celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee, months of discontent erupted. On Friday, Johnson was booed by several bystanders when he arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral for a service honoring the queen. For many, the four-day weekend provided an opportunity to unwind.
Brady stated that some lawmakers who filed letters of no confidence requested that their release be delayed until after the jubilee weekend.
Nonetheless, most political commentators believe Johnson will obtain the support of more than 180 legislators and defeat the opposition. However, he could emerge badly weakened. Theresa May was the latest prime minister to survive a vote of no confidence in 2018. She never regained her influence and left within months, resulting in Johnson's victory in a leadership election.
His selection in July 2019 culminated in a tumultuous climb to the top. He has held prominent positions, such as London mayor and U.K. foreign secretary, and spent time on the political sidelines due to his own mistakes. For many Conservatives, his resiliency in the face of scandal and his ability to connect with voters trumped concerns about his ethics or judgment.
An investigator's report issued late last month criticized a culture of rule-breaking within the prime minister's office in a scandal known as "partygate," which exacerbated mounting concerns.
Sue Gray, a civil service investigator, recounted alcoholic parties hosted by Downing Street employees when pandemic restrictions barred U.K. citizens from mingling or even seeing dying relatives.
Gray stated that the "senior leadership team" is accountable for "leadership and judgment failures."
Johnson was also fined 50 pounds ($63) for attending a party, making him the first prime minister to be penalized for breaching the law.
The prime minister expressed "humility" and "full responsibility" but said he would not step down. He urged the British to "move on" and concentrate on repairing the economy and assisting Ukraine in repelling a Russian invasion.
But an increasing number of Conservatives believe that Johnson is now a liability who would consign them to defeat in the 2024 election.
"Today's choice is a change or lose," said Jeremy Hunt, who competed against Boris Johnson for the Conservative leadership in 2019 but avoided criticizing him. "I intend to vote for change."
Longtime Johnson supporter Jesse Norman stated that the prime minister had "presided over a culture of casual law-breaking" and left the government "drifting and distracted."
"Under no circumstances could I serve in a government led by you," Norman wrote in a letter that was shared on social media.
John Penrose, another Conservative lawmaker, resigned as the prime minister's "anti-corruption champion" on Monday, citing Johnson's violation of the government code of conduct with the behavior revealed by partygate.
However, key ministers expressed their support for Johnson, including some who would presumably participate in the Conservative leadership election triggered if he were to be removed from office.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, one of the frontrunners to succeed Johnson, said, "The Prime Minister has my unwavering support in today's vote, and I strongly urge colleagues to do the same."
Steve Barclay, a Cabinet member and Johnson friend stated that overthrowing the leader at this time would be "indefensible."
On the Conservative Home website, he stated, "The problems we face are not easy to solve, but the Conservatives have the right plan to do so."
"Disrupting this progress at this time would be inexcusable to those who voted for us for the first time in the last general election and who want to see our prime minister deliver the promised changes for their communities."