Sat | Mar 2, 2024

‘In the name of God, go!’

Johnson defies calls to quit as ouster bid gathers pace

Published:Friday | January 21, 2022 | 12:05 AM
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, in London yesterday.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, in London yesterday.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defied calls to resign in a feisty performance Wednesday in Parliament – but it may be too little to prevent a push by his Conservative Party’s lawmakers to oust him over a series of lockdown-flouting government parties.

Pressure on the prime minister grew as one Conservative lawmaker defected to the opposition Labour Party and a former Conservative Cabinet Minister told him: “In the name of God, go!”

The demand from former Brexit Secretary David Davis came during a combative Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons, where Johnson defended his government’s record in running the economy, fighting crime and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and vowed to lead his party into the next election.

The allegations that Johnson and his staff broke restrictions the government imposed on the country have helped the Labour Party open up a double-digit opinion poll lead on the Conservatives, but Johnson doesn’t have to face voters until the next general election, scheduled for 2024. His bigger danger is from his own party, which has a history of ousting leaders once they become liabilities.

Conservatives are weighing whether to trigger a no-confidence vote in Johnson amid the public anger over the scandal dubbed “partygate” – a stunning reversal of fortune for a politician who just over two years ago led the party to its biggest election victory in almost 40 years.

Under Conservative rules, a no-confidence vote in the party’s leader can be triggered if 54 party lawmakers – 15 per cent of the party’s House of Commons total – write letters to a party official demanding it.

If Johnson lost a confidence vote among the party’s 359 lawmakers, it would trigger a contest to replace him as Conservative leader. The winner would also become prime minister. If Johnson won the vote, he would be safe from a similar challenge for a year.

Johnson on Wednesday announced he was lifting mask mandates and most other coronavirus restrictions in England beginning next week, as he tried to change the subject and brush aside questions about the scandal.

“We delivered while they dithered,” he said of opposition politicians, several of whom told Johnson he was regarded by Britons as a charlatan, a hypocrite, a liar and “stupid”.