Tonight’s confidence ballot has deepened the Tories’ problem. Yes, Boris Johnson won – but by nowhere near enough to resolve the issue. His margin of victory was worse than what Theresa May achieved in 2018, and that only protected her for six months.
The problem for Johnson is that the issue here is about him, not policy. So it is not as if a shift in position on a few topics could allow him to win the rebels round. Indeed, when you consider what many of the rebels have said publicly today it is pretty much impossible to see how they could stand as Tories at the next election if Johnson is still leader.
We are now in a world where there will be constant speculation about whether the 1922 committee will change the rules to allow another confidence vote within the next 12 months. After the two by-elections later this month would be too soon; one consequence of this revolt being organic, not organised, is that the rebels did not have the strategic patience to wait until the 27 June to strike. Had they done so – and given tonight’s result – they would have had a very good chance of unhorsing the PM. But another vote a few months from now, perhaps after the privileges committee report, now seems like the most likely outcome.
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