Rebel MPs who want to oust Boris Johnson ‘echo' views of Camden voters

Prime Minister was blamed for local elections defeat

Tuesday, 7th June — By Richard Osley

Boris apologies

Boris Johnson saw 148 Tory MPs turn against him – but said he had won a confidence vote convincingly

NO Conservative campaigner in Camden has so far been willing to come out in support of beleaguered Boris Johnson as he faced a humiliating confidence vote last night (Monday).

One hundred and forty-eight Tory MPs voted for him to go but the Prime Minister nevertheless insisted he had secured a convincing victory and his party could now unite behind his policies.

There was no rush to celebrate the result among members in Camden however, where his performance as leader, and involvement and approach to the ‘partygate’ revelations, was blamed for the party’s worst ever showing at the boroughwide council elections on May 5.

With Mr Johnson seemingly determined to “bash on” – his phrase – there were no comments or tweets of support from activists here, where the party has a new chance to make its case to voters at the Hampstead Town by-election next month.

Gio Spinella is the leader of the Camden Conservatives

Councillor Gio Spinella, the leader of the Conservatives but expressing his own personal view, said: “The reasons that led to 148 Conservative MPs to vote no confidence against Boris Johnson echo what Camden residents said to us on the doorstep last May and which I said as well. He has gained a temporary respite.”

He added: “It is my hope he will have learned from this experience but his remarks are not encouraging in that regard. History shows that PMs that face these votes of no confidence do not last long thereafter.”

Labour has already been distributing election leaflets in Hampstead Town with large photographs of Mr Johnson’s face. The Conservatives had aimed to detach themselves from what happens in the House of Commons by branding themselves as ‘Local Conservatives’ at Camden’s boroughwide vote last month, but went onto lose their leader, Oliver Cooper, in Belsize and failed to make gains in target wards.

Alex Andrews, the Conservatives’ new by-election candidate, said last week: “I heard time and again the message that the government needed to change, and that message was heard loud and clear in May. Now, Hampstead uniquely has a chance to elect another local champion to work with [Conservative councillor} Stephen Stark, separate from national politics.”

Despite scoring worse than Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Theresa May – all of whom won confidence votes but ended up by being fatally undermined by the process – Mr Johnson said last night: “I think this is a very good result for politics and for the country. I think it’s a convincing result, a decisive result and what it means is that as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people.”

Mr Johnson and his supporters continued to push the line that the media had become obsessed with what went on at Downing Street during the Covid lockdown and the fact that he and others had been fined due to breaking the rules set by the government.

One MP, Adam Holloway, told Newsnight that photos were used to make Mr Johnson “look like Hannibal Lecter”, while another, Lee Anderson, was on air today claiming press and broadcasters had led a “witchhunt” against him.

Sir Keir Starmer has promised to resign if he gets a Covid fine

Mr Johnson himself said last night: “What this [result] gives us is the opportunity to put behind us all the stuff that the media have quite properly wanted to focus on for a very long and do our job which is to focus on the stuff that I think the public actually want us to be talking about, which is what we are doing to help the people in this country, and all the things we’re doing to take this country forward.”

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, appeared with a lectern speech swiftly after the result was announced, and said: “Conservative MPs made their choice tonight. They have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and everything he represents.”

Mr Starmer, who has himself said he will resign if Durham Police issue a fine for any possible Covid breach relating to an ongoing investigation into an event in April 2021, added: “The Conservative Party now believes that good government focused on improving lives is too much to ask. The Conservative Party now believes that breaking the law is no impediment to making the law. The Conservative Party now believes that the British public have no right to expect honest politicians.”

Former Camden councillor Chris Philp – now a member of Parliament in Croydon – was among the 211 Tory MPs who voted to back Mr Johnson.

He said: “As a four times proven election winner against the odds – London in 2018 and 2012, 2016 referendum and 2019 general election – who has delivered a world-leading Covid vaccine programme, world-leading support to Ukraine, the lowest unemployment since 1974, record NHS spending and 13,000 of 20,000 extra police officers hired already, Boris Johnson deserves support and he will have mine.”

Chris Philp is supporting Boris Johnson

Another former Frognal ward councillor, Henry Newman, was a Downing Street aide until recently. He has not commented on whether he was among staff to receive a Covid breach fine.

Camden Council leader, Labour councillor Georgia Gould, said: “Let’s have a general election and ask the public if they have confidence in this shambles. Almost 2/3 of Conservative MPs are prepared to turn a blind eye to law breaking and lies. They are not fit to run this country.”

Mr Johnson deflected questions about the possibility of calling a snap general election last night – with some suggesting he could gamble on winning back some strength by securing a new mandate from voters.

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