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MPs Warn Boris Johnson Backers Have “Head In The Clouds” As Bruised No.10 Pushes "Reboot"


3 min read

Senior government sources believe Boris Johnson will survive the fallout following Monday’s confidence vote as he is a “very different” politician to previous party leaders.

But many in his party, including his own supporters, have said they fear Johnson won’t survive to be party leader at the next election.

Questions have been raised over the PM’s future after 41% of his MPs declined to back him in a confidence vote on Monday evening, with some senior Tories suggesting that he would only last a “matter of months”.

Many critics have pointed to the fact that previous party leaders — including John Major, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May — ended up resigning their position shortly after winning a confidence vote by similar margins.

But a senior government source dismissed this suggestion, telling PoliticsHome that “this is the beginning of the reboot” for Johnson.

"It'd be fair to say Number 10 won the battle off the airwaves yesterday. It was wall-to-wall with supportive voices before, during and after the vote,” they said.

“You'll see a counter narrative which is 'it's the beginning of the end for Boris, just look at May and Major'. But they are very different circumstances.”

The source highlighted that Johnson currently has a working majority of 75, while May was operating a minority government in a parliament that was “completely gridlocked by an issue like Brexit”.

“Boris is a very, very different type of politician. This is the beginning of the reboot and the fightback, rather than the beginning of the end,” they continued.

Addressing Cabinet on Tuesday morning, Johnson said the vote's result mean the government is now able to "draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about".

He added that they should be  “proud, proud, proud” of their transformative agenda, and that they should now focus on issues that "matter" to the public.

Despite his optimism, however, many Tory MPs have quietly expressed concern that Johnson will likely be unseated within the next year. 

“I can’t see how he can survive this,” one 2019-intake MP, who backed the PM on Monday, told PoliticsHome.

They said the few colleagues who thought the PM could continue had their “head in the clouds”, and suggested that even “reliable supporters” were now questioning the PM’s future.

Speaking shortly after the results were announced yesterday evening, another supportive MP said that Johnson’s “time in Downing Street is definitely numbered”, and added that their seat would likely be “toast” if he led the party into the next election. 

Other Tory insiders also feared that Johnson surviving as leader could cost them the next election.

A government source told PoliticsHome on Monday evening they did not see how Johnson can now "credibly ask the public to put confidence in him at the next general election".

"I think that he can survive this but the people that he needs to survive against are ultimately not Conservative MPs – it’s the voting public at the next general election," they added. 

"The voting public at the next general election will be faced with Keir Starmer, who’s not an extremist like Jeremy Corbyn was, they will also be faced with the cost of living crisis which is not going away."

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