British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under domestic political pressure for months because of the “Partygate” affair. Now he even had to face a no-confidence vote from his own party.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a vote of no confidence in his Conservative group. But the result was closer than expected. Only 211 of his parliamentary group colleagues expressed their confidence in the prime minister on Monday evening in London. 148 Tory MPs voted to dismiss Johnson as party leader and thus also as prime minister. It is therefore considered badly damaged.

A vote of no confidence will be held under British Conservative rules if 15 per cent of the group votes no confidence in the PM. This threshold was reached on Sunday with corresponding messages from at least 54 of the 359 Tory MPs, as the chairman of the responsible party committee, Graham Brady, announced on Monday morning. The vote was held later that evening.

Boris Johnson under pressure over ‘Partygate’

Johnson had come under pressure after details came to light about parties at his Downing Street office in London during the corona lockdowns, some of which were excessive. The conservative politician tolerated the celebrations and even attended some of them. An investigation report accused those responsible in Downing Street of leadership failure. Johnson has been fined for attending an illegal lockdown party, becoming the first UK Prime Minister to have been proven to have broken the law.

But it wasn’t just his lax attitude toward his own rules that got Johnson’s opponents in his own party on the barricades. The Tory MP and long-time Johnson companion Jesse Norman accused the Prime Minister of endangering the unity of the country, among other things. He described the confrontational course with Brussels on the Northern Ireland question as “economically very harmful, politically foolish and almost certainly illegal”. He described Johnson’s plan to deport refugees to Rwanda as “ugly, likely counterproductive and of dubious legality.” However, he does not have a long-term political agenda. “Instead, you’re just trying to campaign, constantly changing the subject and creating political and cultural divides mostly for your own benefit,” Norman continued.

Rejection of Johnson from all party wings

Johnson should also be concerned that the rebellion did not appear to be coming from just one wing of the party. For example, his critics include both die-hard Brexit supporters such as Steve Baker and ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis, as well as retainers such as Tobias Ellwood, who recently called for a return to the EU single market.

For months, party colleagues had repeatedly called on Johnson to resign. The attempt to chase him out of office has now failed for the time being. According to current party rules, no further vote of no confidence may be attempted against Johnson for a period of twelve months. But the hope that criticism of him will now fall silent is also likely to be in vain. Although Johnson still has the majority of the parliamentary group behind him, the fronts within his own party appear to have become so hardened that governing is likely to become increasingly difficult for him.

The next crisis for Johnson looms when by-elections are held in two English constituencies on June 23. In at least one of them, the Tories must brace themselves for a heavy defeat.