Boris Johnson Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a no-confidence vote instigated by opponents in his Conservative Party, but just barely. Less than 60% of Conservative members of Parliament voted to retain Johnson as the party’s leader and thus as prime minister. The result is grim for Johnson, who will continue in his job knowing that everyone has seen how shaky his position is within his own party. Few prime ministers have been able to survive under that kind of pressure for long.
Boris Johnson limps on for now
Boris Johnson became the leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister in 2019 after his predecessor Theresa May was ousted following a damaging no-confidence vote.
He then led the party to a sweeping victory in the next election, giving the Conservatives, and Johnson specifically, a strong mandate and an undeniable triumph.
Three years later, Johnson has survived a no-confidence vote with an even smaller majority than May’s in 2018. May resigned only months after her narrow victory.
Her successor has also claimed a Pyrrhic victory, and critics are confident that he will soon be forced to follow May’s example and step aside for another Conservative leader.
Johnson, however, is not Theresa May. The prime minister is a resilient political climber who has managed to pull himself out of tough spots repeatedly, and he can be expected to fight hard to keep his job.
That fight may or may not succeed, but restoring his reputation will be an even more daunting task for the prime minister, whose approval ratings have sunk to an all-time low.
Opponents sense opportunity
When he first took over the party and the country from May, Boris Johnson had a reputation as a bold and charismatic leader who could endear himself to almost anyone and outlast almost any controversy.
Conservative critics now feel that the prime minister has become someone the average voter is more likely to laugh at than with, and his commanding persona has been replaced with one of weakness and desperation in the eyes of many observers.
The most damaging development for Johnson was the revelation that he had attended multiple parties that violated his own COVID-19 lockdown rules.
The arrival of war in Ukraine was an invaluable lifeline for the prime minister in the wake of this scandal, allowing him to pivot to foreign policy and present himself as the steady hand the country needed to deal with the crisis.
He has gone to great lengths to tie himself to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, and his allies were not shy about claiming that a defeat for Boris Johnson would mean a defeat for Zelensky and Ukraine as well.
That defeat has been avoided for the moment, but Johnson’s future has if anything become even more uncertain after the worse-than-expected vote and surviving another year as prime minister will be an uphill battle.