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UK PM wounded in confidence vote ‘win’

Boris Johnson has survived a confidence vote in his leadership of the Conservative party but his authority has been dealt a significant blow.

Tory MPs voted by 211 to 148 in support of the prime minister but the scale of the revolt against his leadership leaves him wounded.

When Theresa May faced a confidence vote in 2018 she secured the support of 63 per cent of her MPs – but was still forced out within six months.

Johnson saw 41 per cent of his MPs vote against him, a worse result than May.

The prime minister made a last-ditch plea to Tory MPs to back him, promising future tax cuts and highlighting his own record of electoral success.

But with concern over the partygate scandal, economic policy, drifting opinion polls and Johnson’s style of leadership, the prime minister faced a difficult task to persuade his doubters.

The ballot was triggered after at least 54 MPs – 15 per cent of the party’s representatives in the House of Commons – said they had no confidence in the prime minister.

Johnson wrote to Tory MPs and addressed them at a private meeting in Westminster in the hours before voting began.

He told the meeting that “under my leadership” the party had won its biggest electoral victory in 40 years, and pledged future tax cuts, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak expected to say more in the coming weeks.

He warned them that Tory splits risked the “utter disaster” of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour entering Downing Street, propped up by the SNP.

“The only way we will let that happen is if we were so foolish as to descend into some pointless fratricidal debate about the future of our party,” he said.

He told Tory MPs “I understand the anxieties of people who have triggered this vote” but “I humbly submit to you that this is not the moment for a leisurely and entirely unforced domestic political drama and months and months of vacillation from the UK”.

In an attempt to win round low-tax Tories, Johnson said: “The way out now is to drive supply-side reform on Conservative principles and to cut taxes.”

Johnson was informed on Sunday afternoon that he would face the vote after Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, confirmed he had received the letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger the ballot.

A steady stream of Tory MPs called publicly for him to stand down in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into breaches of the COVID-19 regulations in No 10 and Whitehall.

But Tory concerns go far wider, covering the prime minister’s policies, which have seen the tax burden reach the highest in 70 years, and concerns about his style of politics.

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