BORIS Johnson has won a confidence vote in his leadership in a ballot that put his political future on the rocks.
The 1922 Committee vote was 211 in favour and 148 against, that means 58% of Tory MPs were in favour of his leadership.
The Prime Minister issued a late plea to Tory MPs to support him, warning that “pointless” internal warfare would see them turfed out of office.
Votes we’re counted following the secret ballot of the 359 Tory MPs.
While it would be a major shock if the Tory critics managed to secure the 180 votes required to oust the party leader, his authority would be severely damaged if a significant number of his own MPs have lost confidence in him.
The Prime Minister promised future tax cuts and highlighted his own record of electoral success as he sought to win over wavering MPs.
But with concern over the partygate scandal, economic policy, drifting opinion polls and Mr 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% of the party’s representatives in the Commons – said they had no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Mr 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, Mr Johnson said: “The way out now is to drive supply side reform on Conservative principles and to cut taxes.”
The Prime Minister took five questions during the meeting, two of which were “hostile”, a senior party source said.
Tory former chief whip Mark Harper said that if the PM stayed in post he would be asking MPs to “defend the indefensible”.
Emerging from the meeting, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Mr Johnson’s address had been “light on jokes”, with the Prime Minister in “serious mode”.
He said he expected the Prime Minister to win, as the alternative was a “protracted period of introspection”.
The Prime Minister was informed on Sunday that he would face the vote.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, confirmed he had received the letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger the ballot on Sunday, with a “clear indication” that there would be more to come following the conclusion of the Platinum Jubilee festivities.
A steady stream of Tory MPs called publicly for the Prime Minister to stand down in the wake of Sue Gray’s report into breaches of the Covid regulations in No 10 and Whitehall.