The vote of no confidence: a chance to rebuild trust or simply a confidence trick?

Downing Street | Nick Kane/Unsplash

As many of us are already aware, the Prime Minister has been cast into the national shadow as of late, a position highlighted during the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations. While the nation celebrated, and marvelled at the Queen’s continuing historied reign, the Prime Minister’s emergence among the ceremony of it all was evidently unwelcome.

Upon arriving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the boos were heard all over the nation’s television screens as Johnson entered, carrying his tarnished reputation. There has rarely been a time in recent memory when the Prime Minister has not been under some sort of scrutiny. Whether it’s his handling of Covid, Partygate, or the recent Rwandan immigration scandal, both sides of the political divide are armed with more than enough issues with which to wage war on Johnson.

Johnson’s predicament is quite a different story. Allowed to continue in his churchillian fantasy he has seemingly won the war of attrition against covid, and moves onto the conflict in eastern europe

Recent developments have shown how these issues rage within his own party, as the most recent confidence vote left many shocked for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, many outside the party were expecting the result to be one of no confidence, due to the mounting scandals even after the Metropolitan investigation. However, Johnson survived by a significant margin, and is locked in the office for another year. However, his majority is not as comfortable as he would likely want. Having secured 211 MPs in his favour, he still has 148 members looming over him who presently want him gone.

This is to be compared with former confidence votes, as many news sources have raised the Thatcher vote of 1990 as an apt reflection, as it held a numerally similar result of those in favour to those against: 204 to 152. However, upon failing to win an outright victory for party leadership Thatcher resigned following advice from her cabinet, showing a mirrored reflection of the present situation. In more recent memory we remember the famous May resignation of 2018, who despite winning, did not believe in her ability to lead the country through Brexit negotiations, and as a result of various other discouraging factors, she consequently resigned.

Johnson’s predicament is quite a different story. Allowed to continue in his Churchillian fantasy as a wartime Prime Minister, he has seemingly won the war of attrition against Covid, and moves onto the conflict in Eastern Europe, looking to redeem himself before what may be a Churchillian electoral demise.

However, for the time being, he cannot leave civil unrest behind him. Looking locally at the 6 Cornish MPs, we did see one vote against Johnson’s holding of office. The MP for St Ives Derek Thomas declared that he would be voting against the Prime Minister, and that in spite of the difficulties associated with replacing him, he “knew it was the right thing to do”, believing Johnson’s position to be untenable.

Keeping this in mind, there are still a vast proportion of those party affiliates who support the Prime Minister retaining his position. Having spoken to the chair of the Cornwall Young Conservatives, Chris Ng, he stated his practical position:

 “I view the prime minister’s actions disdainfully, particularly having been such an avid supporter of his leadership and vision. Whilst I respect and to quite an extent concur with those making upstanding calls for Boris to be removed from office I think at this point in time this would be both troublesome and unbeneficial for all.”

The Palace of Westminster | Manuelle Sangali/Unsplash

It seems that despite the untenability of the Prime Minister’s position, there is still the argument to be made that his removal would be disastrous in a period of such global and civil unrest, with the cost-of-living crisis, electoral discontent, and the war in Ukraine.

These issues do not result from the Prime Minister alone, but do play wonderfully into his supposed strategy for staying put. Commentators have owed his survivability to his patented ‘dead cat’ technique, which is essentially to cause distraction from one catastrophe by throwing another one onto the table (as you would a dead cat) until the former is no longer considered relevant.

However, people are starting to question how long Boris can deftly bungle from blunder to blunder with these tired tricks up his sleeve. Afterall, there does come a point where people start to question where all these dead cats are coming from, and then the masterly orchestrated plan goes about as far as this analogy.

After speaking with the less electorally committed voters who have no party fealty, the general sentiment is—unsurprisingly—not favourable for the Prime Minister. However, they believe that even more trouble is to be found, likely from the formerly unjaded 2019 cohort, and old-guard backbenchers; the latter of which have already been posing problems, with previous opposition to Covid policies, and the myriad of positions against Johnson’s Brexit agreement that won him his landslide election.

Overall, it’s safe to say that there is a lot riding against Johnson from without and within, and it is unlikely that people will forget his perceived wrongdoings any time soon. However, the unfortunate backdrop of the world stage puts an oracular spotlight on the Prime Minister, as the party’s decision to hold onto him for a year longer shows a reluctance from them— and one shared with the broader public—to test the waters of whether things really can get worse, harbouring a desperate faith in a character who has acted dishonestly, and whose role is now uncertain.