Graham Brady has to keep an eye on his inbox these days. The Conservative MP is currently one of the most important politicians in Great Britain: With one number he can exacerbate the situation for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
54 is the magic number Brady has to watch out for. Because as soon as the chairman of the so-called 1922 Committee has received 54 letters in which members of parliament are renouncing their allegiance to the prime minister, an internal party vote of no confidence will be due.
In the London government district, many observers are currently assuming that the threshold has already been reached and that Brady will announce this at the beginning of the week. Sir Graham just wants to wait out the parliamentary recess around the Queen’s 70th jubilee so as not to overshadow the celebrations, according to widespread opinion. Johnson is controversial in public: he was loudly booed during an appearance during Queen’s “Jubilee”.
Already 70 letters together?
So far, 28 letters are officially known. However, Sky News has counted 45 MPs who have publicly questioned Johnson’s position. In addition, the parliamentarians are not obliged to make their letters public. A few more are likely to have been received over the long weekend, up to 70 could already be there, the Telegraph newspaper quoted a Tory source as saying.
Criticism continues to ignite in particular Johnson’s handling of the “Partygate” affair about lockdown celebrations in Downing Street government headquarters. Many rebels referred to senior official Sue Gray’s damning investigative report in their motion. She had accused Johnson of serious leadership failure – but the 57-year-old carries on as if nothing happened, also ignoring that he has become the first sitting prime minister to break the law after being fined for attending a party.
But it is also clear that even if there is actually a vote of no confidence, it is by no means certain that Johnson will lose office. Because in a vote, 180 Tory MPs – at least half of the current 359 parliamentary group members – would have to speak out against the prime minister. But about 150 of them have unpaid or paid government jobs, such as state secretaries, faction whips, or trade envoys. If they vote against Johnson in the secret ballot, they could lose their positions themselves.
Between “mutiny and paralysis”
The Tories are “caught between mutiny and paralysis,” commented James Forsyth, editor of the conservative magazine Spectator, in the Times newspaper. Central questions remain unanswered.
There is currently no serious successor in sight. Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak, previously the most promising candidate, has lost support, and the much-loved Defense Secretary Ben Wallace appears to have no ambitions. Remain Secretary of State Liz Truss. The 46-year-old, who presents herself as a modern version of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, stands for conservative virtues such as tax cuts and appears more determined than all other candidates, commented former Tory MP David Gauke in the New Statesman magazine.
What also speaks in favor of Johnson at the moment is that he is by far the best campaigner in the party. Many fear that without the populists they will have no chance in the parliamentary elections planned for 2024 and will lose their seat in the lower house.
criticism from all sides
Nevertheless, the resentment is apparently big enough to get the prime minister into serious trouble. The problem for Johnson is that the criticism comes from representatives of different tendencies – from MPs who were for Brexit or against leaving the EU, from veteran parliamentarians and those who only moved into the House of Commons in 2019, from conservatives from all regions of the country. “No one is planning a coup, but oddly enough that’s more dangerous,” Spectator boss Forsyth quoted a Tory as saying.
The situation is so dynamic and unpredictable that some MPs are afraid of their own courage. The Guardian newspaper reported that some rebels wanted to call for the letters of no confidence from committee chief Brady to be withdrawn. Because Johnson is currently still enjoying a lot of support due to the lack of alternatives. If a vote of no confidence fails, a new vote may only be held in one year.
That’s why some critics wanted to wait for June 23, wrote the Guardian. Then there are by-elections in two constituencies – the Conservatives are expected to lose both. In this case, Johnson’s opponents hope, the prime minister would lose so much support that a vote of no confidence should actually succeed.
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