Boris Johnson Should Seek ‘Honourable Exit’ to Avoid Uncertainty: Former Conservative Leader

Following the confidence vote, a former leader of the Conservative Party has said Prime MinisterBoris Johnson should look for “an honourable exit” to spare the party and the country further agonies and uncertainties as his position is no longer sustainable.

Johnson survived a vote of confidence within the ruling Conservative Party on Monday, with 211 MPs backing him and 148 wanting him to step down over the partygate scandal.

Johnson called the result “convincing” and “decisive,” and said, “as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his Cabinet ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, on June 7, 2022. (Leon Neal—WPA Pool /Getty Images)

But William Hague, now a member of the House of Lords, is less sanguine about the prime minister’s prospects.

“While Johnson has survived the night, the damage done to his premiership is severe,” Hague wrote in The Times.

“Words have been said that cannot be retracted, reports published that cannot be erased, and votes have been cast that show a greater level of rejection than any Tory leader has ever endured and survived,” Hague said.

“Deep inside, he should recognise that, and turn his mind to getting out in a way that spares party and country such agonies and uncertainties.”

Hague, who was leader of the Conservative Party from 1997 to 2001, said he would have regarded his position as “completely untenable” if more than a third of his own MPs had voted against him in a confidence vote.

He said Johnson’s “fairly narrow victory” is the “fending-off of a gathering feeling of hopelessness” and is likely to be “a way marker on an exhausting road to further crises of confidence.”

Hague said this is “the worst possible result” for the Conservative Party. “Logically, they should either reconcile themselves to Johnson and get behind him, or decisively eject him and move on to a new leader. It does not seem they have done either.”

The confidence vote followed the May 25 publication of civil servant Sue Gray’s report into COVID-19 breaches in Downing Street and the remarks by the prime minister’s ethics adviser Lord Geidt that Johnson may have breached the ministerial code by attending parties during the pandemic.

The vote in his favour means that Johnson is now immune for a year from any further such vote against him being triggered. However, many commentators from across the political spectrum say he may yet be forced out by other political forces.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Committee in the House of Commons, suggested the prime minister would only survive for “a matter of months.”

Ellwood, who has been calling for Johnson to resign since February, said he accepts the result of the confidence motion “for the moment.”

But he told Sky News: “This is far from a conclusive result—it’s not a defeat but it’s not a win.”

Chris Summers and PA contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang


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