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LONDON — On Monday evening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a vote of no confidence from his Conservative Party. He survived the vote by 211 to 148, which means he is allowed to stay in office.

Even so, the very fact of the vote was a fall from grace for a charismatic and unorthodox leader. Johnson had successfully campaigned for Britain’s controversial departure from the European Union before entering the country’s top office. He went on to secure an enormous 80-seat majority for his party in the 2019 election.

But revelations about pandemic-era parties at Downing Street that broke government lockdown rules have added fuel to growing criticism.

Boris Johnson survives party no-confidence vote but will govern as a wounded U.K. prime minister

Even in the face of mounting anger, ousting a prime minister through a party no-confidence vote is always difficult. But few expect Johnson to fully recover. His predecessor, Theresa May, survived her own challenge after a failed Brexit deal in 2018. She was then forced to resign the next year.


How the vote of

no confidence works

Tories need 54 letters (15 percent of their parliamentary group) to challenge Johnson.

Johnson wins the vote

If Johnson gets a simple majority of members of parliament — 180 votes — he can stay as prime minister. Current rules say he cannot be challenged again for a year, though those rules can be changed.

Johnson loses the vote

He can stay as a caretaker for six weeks until a new leader is decided upon.

A very close vote, however, could force him to resign.

Two candidates

The grass-roots Conservative Party membership decides the new prime minister.

Three or more candidates

Conservative lawmakers vote, eliminating those with the fewest votesuntil only two are left.

CHIQUI ESTEBAN/THE WASHINGTON POST

How the vote of no confidence works

Tories need 54 letters (15 percent of their parliamentary group) to challenge Johnson.

Johnson wins the vote

If Johnson gets a simple majority of members of parliament — 180 votes — he can stay as prime minister. Current rules say he cannot be challenged again for a year, though those rules can be changed.

Johnson loses the vote

He can stay as a caretaker for six weeks until a new leader is decided upon.

A very close vote, however, could force him to resign.

Three or more candidates

Conservative lawmakers vote, eliminating those with the fewest votesuntil only two are left.

Two candidates

The grass-roots Conservative Party membership decides the new prime minister.

CHIQUI ESTEBAN/THE WASHINGTON POST

How the vote of no confidence works

Tories need 54 letters (15 percent of their parliamentary group) to challenge Johnson.

Johnson wins the vote

If Johnson gets a simple majority of members of parliament — 180 votes — he can stay as prime minister. Current rules say he cannot be challenged again for a year, though those rules can be changed.

Johnson loses the vote

He can stay as a caretaker for six weeks until a new leader is decided upon.

A very close vote, however, could force him to resign.

Two candidates

The grass-roots Conservative Party membership decides the new prime minister.

Three or more candidates

Conservative lawmakers vote, eliminating those with the fewest votesuntil only two are left.

CHIQUI ESTEBAN/THE WASHINGTON POST

Here are some of the possible contenders to eventually replace Johnson:

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt was relegated to the backbenches of Parliament in 2019 after a bid to lead the Conservative Party that he lost to Johnson. The former health secretary chairs an influential committee that has scrutinized the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

An elected member of Parliament since 2005, Hunt, 55, has in-depth institutional knowledge of the party and British politics and climbed the political ranks under Prime Minister David Cameron. Hunt had a long tenure as health secretary before the pandemic hit, and he was known for a protracted dispute with junior doctors over their contracts in a confrontation that led to several strikes over pay and working conditions.

He became foreign secretary in 2018 and handled political clashes with Iran and China. The Oxford-educated Hunt was a “Remainer” in the Brexit debate.

Before politics, Hunt worked briefly in Japan and later ran an educational publishing business and set up a charity to help AIDS orphans in Kenya. He is married with three children.

On Monday, Hunt said he would be voting against Johnson on the no-confidence motion.

“Anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer [and] more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values. Today’s decision is change or lose,” Hunt wrote on Twitter. “I will be voting for change.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, would become the Conservative Party’s third female prime minister if she got the job, following in the footsteps of May, who took office in 2016, and Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Like both women, Truss studied at Oxford University, where she received a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. In an interview with the BBC, she recalled being taken as a child to anti-nuclear marches by her “left-wing” parents and chanting for Thatcher to leave office. However, she eventually joined the Conservative Party, entering Parliament in 2010. She worked in the ministries for education, environment and justice. She was appointed minister for women and equalities in 2019 and succeeded Dominic Raab as foreign secretary in 2021.

Truss supported staying in the European Union during the Brexit referendum in 2016 but soon got on board with the project after the decision to leave was made. She previously worked in the energy and telecommunications industries and is a qualified management accountant. She is married with two children.

Truss wrote on Twitter on Monday that she would support Johnson. “The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him,” she said.

Tom Tugendhat, 48, has been a member of Parliament since 2015 and serves as the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Before joining politics, he worked as a journalist in Lebanon and served in the British army. During a decade-long military career, he worked in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tugendhat is largely known for his tough foreign policy positions, having co-founded the China Research Group in Parliament, which calls for a more critical government policy toward Beijing. He was placed under sanctions, along with other members of Parliament, by China in 2021.

Tugendhat comes from a prominent political family — his father is a high-court judge, and his uncle is a member of the House of Lords. His mother’s side of the family is French, as is Tugendhat’s wife, and his father-in-law is a French diplomat. Tugendhat is Catholic, though he has Jewish ancestry and has complained of antisemitic attacks during his 2019 reelection campaign.

Not considered a Johnson ally, Tugendhat backed his rival Michael Gove in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election. After photographs of Johnson at a lockdown-era party emerged, Tugendhat told Times Radio last month that he was talking to colleagues about whether Johnson had the “seriousness” needed to lead the country.

“It’s what keeps food prices down. It’s what keeps energy prices down. It’s what protects the British people. And I’m afraid these photographs just don’t look serious, do they?” Tugendhat said.

Ben Wallace, 52, has been defense secretary for three years, overseeing strategic operations and defense planning, and is a member of the National Security Council. He has been a member of Parliament since 2005.

Wallace attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer to the Scots Guards in his 20s, which brought him to Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America.

Wallace has been outspoken in supporting Ukraine against Russia in their ongoing war. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes,” Wallace said in a May speech at the National Army Museum.

In a YouGov snap poll of 506 Conservative Party members on Monday, Wallace had the most support (12 percent) among respondents when asked for their top choice to succeed Johnson. Sixteen percent of respondents, though, said they preferred none of the listed choices.

When asked during a Washington Post Live event in May about polling that showed him as the “people’s favorite” to replace Johnson, Wallace said, “I’m so uninterested in a pitch for leadership … I doubt I’d want to be prime minister, but I am a politician, so you can read that answer as you’d like.”

On Monday, Wallace tweeted his support for Johnson, saying the leader had his “full confidence.”

Rishi Sunak, 42, had been widely touted in the British press as the key contender to succeed Johnson as prime minister. He became chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister, in 2020 just as the pandemic began, putting him next door to Johnson, at No. 11 Downing Street.

“My parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools,” Sunak, whose parents are immigrants with Indian roots, wrote on his official website. He attended the prestigious boarding school Winchester College, then Oxford University and Stanford University. He worked in finance at Goldman Sachs and other companies before co-founding an investment firm and has said he believes in “free enterprise and innovation” to ensure future prosperity.

Sunak was first elected to Parliament in 2015 and has been called “Dishy Rishi” by some British tabloids because of his charismatic presentations and slick use of social media.

But his star faded substantially after scandals, including a dispute over his billionaire wife’s tax filing status. He has also faced criticism for his handling of the economy. With inflation running at its highest in 40 years, many in Britain — including loyal Conservative Party voters — have been feeling the pinch.

Sunak wrote on Twitter on Monday that he would back Johnson in the no-confidence vote, adding that from the “vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, [the prime minister] has shown the strong leadership our country needs.”





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