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11 of British PM's lawmakers submit no-confidence letters

By Reuters | Jan 20th 2022 | 3 min read
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. [Reuters]

Eleven lawmakers of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party submitted letters of no confidence in him yesterday morning, the Telegraph reported.

"Eleven members of the 2019 Conservative party intake have submitted letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson this morning," Christopher Hope of the Daily Telegraph said in a tweet.

Fifty-four letters from Conservative lawmakers are needed to trigger a no-confidence vote in Johnson.

To compound the matter, a lawmaker quit the Conservative Party yesterday to defect to the opposition, calling the British prime minister's behaviour "disgraceful" as he faces a growing rebellion from in his own ranks against his premiership.

Christian Wakeford, who represents the Bury South constituency in northern England, said Johnson's policies were doing nothing to help the people he represents and that he was joining the opposition Labour Party.

"My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks," Mr Wakeford said, a reference to a growing scandal over reports of parties being held at Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.

"I can no longer support a government that has shown itself consistently out of touch with the hard-working people of Bury South and the country as a whole," Wakeford added.

Johnson yesterday said he would not resign and people should await the outcome of an inquiry into the alleged parties.

Asked by an opposition Liberal Democrat lawmaker whether it was now time to resign, Johnson told parliament: "No."

"I apologise sincerely for any misjudgments that were made," he added, before asking her to "wait for the inquiry next week" before drawing any conclusions.

Johnson could face the challenge of a no-confidence vote among Conservative Party lawmakers under its rules.

A leadership challenge can be triggered if 15 per cent of Conservative members of parliament (MPs) write letters demanding a confidence vote to the chairman of the party’s "1922 Committee", which represents lawmakers who have no government jobs. The Conservatives have 360 MPs, so 54 would need to write such letters for a confidence vote to be called.

Several Conservative lawmakers have been outspoken in their unhappiness with Johnson and a handful have said publicly they have submitted letters. Others have said they have done so on condition of anonymity.

The letters are confidential, so the 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady is the only person who knows how many have actually done so.

During a confidence vote, all Conservative MPs can vote for or against their leader. If Johnson wins he remains in office and cannot be challenged again for 12 months. If he loses, he must resign and is barred from standing in the leadership election that follows.

Under Conservative rules, the 1922 Committee chairman in consultation with the party leader decides the date of a vote, to be held as soon as possible.

When Johnson's predecessor Theresa May faced a confidence vote in December 2018, which she went on to win, it was held on the same day the 1922 Committee chairman announced he had received enough letters to trigger the vote.

If Johnson lost, there would be a leadership contest to decide his replacement. However, a general election would not automatically be triggered, and his replacement would become prime minister.

If several candidates come forward, a secret vote is held among Conservative MPs to whittle down the field. The candidate with the fewest votes is removed and another ballot among Conservative lawmakers is held. The process is repeated until two candidates remain, with votes held several days apart on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The final two candidates are then put to a postal ballot of the wider Conservative Party membership, with the winner named the new leader. Voters need to have been party members for more than three months.

The two MPs considered frontrunners to replace Johnson are his Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister Liz Truss.

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