How does a no-confidence vote work?

Johnson will face a decision on his leadership later today

Boris Johnson
Any confidence vote over Boris Johnson's leadership is likely to wait until after the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Conservative MPs will vote on whether to allow Boris Johnson to continue as their leader after at least 54 letters of no confidence were sent to 1922 Committee chair, Graham Brady.

Brady published a statement this morning announcing that the threshold of 15% of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in Johnson had been “exceeded”, and that a poll will take place this evening from 6-8pm. A result will then be announced “shortly thereafter” said Brady.

According to PoliticsHome, Johnson had been told on Sunday that the threshold for a vote had been passed, and that he and Brady had then “agreed a timetable for holding the vote”.

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A No. 10 spokesperson said that Johnson welcomed the vote as an opportunity to “draw a line” under weeks of speculation over his ability to carry out the top job.

“Tonight is a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on, delivering on the people’s priorities,” said the spokesperson.

“The PM welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs and will remind them that when they’re united and focused on the issues that matter to voters there is no more formidable political force.”

The vote

In the Conservative Party, a no-confidence vote is triggered if 15% of the party’s MPs – currently 54 of the 359 Tory MPs in the current government – write to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, to request the move. Under new rules introduced at Christmas, MPs no longer need to “physically hand” letters over to Brady and can instead email them to him.

Only Brady knows how many letters have been sent, keeping a secret tally until the threshold is reached. Although it is not yet known exactly how many MPs submitted letters of no confidence, Insider said that sources thought “more than 60 had done so”.

Under party rules, only a simple majority is needed for the PM to hold on to the top job – but he would be ousted if more than half of MPs voted against him. The magic number for Johnson to keep his job in the event of a confidence vote is 180.

If he were to survive the vote, another no-confidence vote could not be held against him for at least another year. If he did not, a leadership contest would be triggered, in which Johnson would not be able to stand.

A long list of Tory contenders would be whittled down by MPs to just two, before the 100,000-strong Conservative Party membership hold a one-member-one-vote election to pick their new leader – who would also become the next PM of the United Kingdom.

When will the vote take place, now the threshold has been met?

According to The Guardian, Brady was asked by reporters this morning when the threshold was reached, which he said was complicated by some MPs specifying that their letter should only be “effective from the end of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations”.

As Brady announced this morning, the vote will take place from 6-8pm on Monday evening.

The chair of the 1922 Committee is afforded a “certain amount of discretion” over exactly when a vote will take place, but in his role is expected to tell the prime minister when the threshold has been reached and then organise a confidence vote “as soon as practicable”, according to The Guardian.

A ballot box will be placed in the 1922 Committee room at the time of the vote, and Conservative MPs will vote in a secret ballot.

How likely is Johnson to survive a confidence vote?

While it is “relatively easy to see” how rebel Conservative MPs could whip up enough support for 54 letters to be submitted to the 1922 Committee, triggering a confidence vote, it is “much harder to see” how they would reach the 180 votes needed to oust Johnson in such an event, writes The Times’s associate political editor Henry Zeffman.

The prime minister is likely to muster at least 140 votes from MPs on the government “payroll” – that is Cabinet ministers, junior ministers, and parliamentary private secretaries – and so it looks “much likelier that Johnson will win but suffer the indignity of a large chunk of his own MPs visibly turning against him.”

If Johnson was able to secure a majority in the event of a no-confidence vote this would theoretically grant him immunity from further challenges to his leadership for another year, “potentially giving him time to steady the ship, rebuild alliances and strengthen his grip over the parliamentary party”, said The Independent.

But in reality, Johnson may find himself “unable to survive that period politically”, said the paper, which noted that Theresa May was only able to hang on a number of months after “emerging victorious from a confidence vote”. Six months later, she “announced her resignation outside No. 10”.

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