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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a no-confidence vote Monday that could have ousted him from power as discontent with his rule grows amid a fight for his political life.
Conservative members of parliament voted 211-148 in favor of letting Johnson stay in power during a secret ballot in Westminster.
In an interview with Sky News, Johnson called the vote a “decisive result,” despite the fact that 40% of members of his own party split from him.
“I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery (of services),” he said.
The move against Johnson, who has led Britain out of the European Union and through a pandemic, comes as his government faces intense pressure to address increasing energy and food prices. Support among his fellow Conservative lawmakers has weakened as some see him as a liability rather than an asset in elections.
Conservative Party official Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announced Monday that he had received letters calling for a no-confidence vote from at least 54 Tory legislators, enough to trigger the measure under party rules. Hours later, party lawmakers lined up by the dozen in a corridor at Parliament to cast their ballots in a wood-paneled room, handing over their phones as they entered to ensure secrecy.
Before the vote, Johnson’s Downing Street office said the prime minister welcomed the vote as “a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on.”
To remain in office, Johnson needed to win the backing of a simple majority of the 359 Conservative lawmakers. If he didn’t, the party would have chosen a new leader as prime minister. Moving forward, there cannot be another challenge against Johnson for a year unless the rules are changed.
Most observers predicted he would defeat the challenge as there was no clear front-runner to succeed him.
Johnson, a charismatic leader renowned for his ability to connect with voters, has struggled to turn the page on revelations that he and his staff repeatedly held boozy parties that flouted the COVID-19 restrictions they imposed on others.
Despite the victory, the rebellion was significant as the vote margin is less than that of former Prime Minister Theresa May, who was the subject of a similar vote in December 2018 before she was forced to resign from office six months later.
The discontent against Johnson had been building for months and erupted following the 10-day parliamentary break that included a long weekend of celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
At one point, he was booed by onlookers last week as he arrived for a service to honor the queen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.