Boris Johnson vs The Backbenchers : the no confidence vote, explained

Boris Johnson’s position is becoming increasingly untenable with each and every passing day. With pressure from voters, opposition and most significantly from his own backbenchers ‘pork pie plot’, we explore how a confidence vote works.

Boris Johnson vs The Backbenchers : the no confidence vote, explained

Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure to resign with every passing day following the party scandal. One of the main sources of this pressure actually stem from within his very own party and in particular, backbenchers who are threatening a vote of no confidence in the party leader to oust him from office. The vote of no confidence is within the actual party and is not to be confused with one for Parliament. Assuming the vote is successful then it would essentially force the prime minister’s hand to resign, triggering a leadership battle in the party which would see a successor assume the position of Johnson. Conservative MPs simply need to demonstrate their adequate support for a vote to trigger one. 15% of MPs is the threshold and the party currently has 360 MPs. This means that 54 MPs have to compose and send a letter to the Chairman of The 1922 Committee for a vote to be triggered.

How the vote works

The Chairman keeps track of the number of letters received and if it crosses the necessary threshold they trigger a confidence vote. This consists of a secret ballot whereby party members express either support or opposition to the PM. 50% of MPs have to express that they have no confidence in the incumbent leader to pass the motion. Theresa May in 2018, for instance, had a confidence vote triggered against her but she managed to survive it.  

What happens next?

  • The vote is successful

If the vote of no confidence is successful then the leader must resign and a leadership contest is held. This consists of two stages and the entire process from start to finish takes approximately two months. Candidates can nominate themselves to become party leader and this list is whittled down by MPs. Ultimately, MPs put forward two candidates for the vacant premiership through two rounds of voting; MPs with the fewest votes or those who fall below a certain minimum number of votes are eliminated. The voting is then opened up to party members who can then vote between the final two candidates. Should this happen, the current frontrunners to replace the incumbent prime minister are tipped off as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. 

Johnson would not necessarily have to call the moving company just yet though even if he is ousted. Indeed, he has a role to play in naming his successor and its timing after tendering his resignation to the Queen – Johnson in this case will stay on as ‘caretaker’ and remain in office until a successor emerges. Should he leave before this then it is likely a high-ranking member of the party would replace him, such as Dominic Raab.

  • The vote is unsuccessful

If the vote of no confidence is unsuccessful, and Boris Johnson remains party leader, he cannot be challenged for another twelve months. 

Will the PM jump or be pushed?

At this point, it seems inevitable that the prime minister will soon be exiting his office one way or another. Whether he will ‘jump’ and resign himself or be ousted by his party and ‘pushed’ remains to be seen. But by all indications, it appears that he is maintaining his innocence and will need some encouragement. Sue Grey’s report may tilt the scales once that is published, but until then, it will be a tense standoff, and Johnson’s ‘porkies’ may just cost him dearly.

Header Image Credit: Dominika Gregušová


Dheeraj Chutani

Dheeraj Chutani Kickstart

Dheeraj is a recent postgraduate having graduated with a BA and MA in Politics from The University Of Leicester. He is interested in all things politics and current affairs but when he is not catching up with all the latest headlines, he enjoys reading, jogging, weight-lifting and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

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