Confidence vote did nothing to settle the future of PM

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson chairing a cabinet meeting the day after the Confidence Vote. - Credit: PA

After this week's confidence vote in the House of Commons, politics in the UK - at every level - seems set to be dominated by the Prime Minister's position for the foreseeable future.

Put bluntly, the vote resolved absolutely nothing.

Boris Johnson and his ministers might go around saying we should all "move on" and that the people "want us to get on with dealing with the big issues" but the fact is that for many people THE big issue is the fact that they (and 40% of his own MPs) don't trust the occupant of Number 10.

On a political level there were two big winners of Monday's vote - Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are increasingly confident of winning the by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton.

In fact it looks as if the Tories have already waved the white flag in West Yorkshire!

Locally Suffolk's MPs (all Conservative) have generally been keen to avoid discussing the confidence vote if at all possible - but there have been some interesting nuances emerging.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has made no secret of the fact that he thinks the PM should resign. His was one of the letters that contributed to the vote and he still believes Mr Johnson is a distraction holding back the government from taking necessary measures.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has avoided saying explicitly that he voted against the PM, but his comments over the last few weeks make it very difficult to believe that he was one of his supporters in the secret ballot.

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Ministers James Cartlidge and Therese Coffey appeared to be very much toeing the "party line" with their statements in support of the PM - saying essentially the same thing as many of their ministerial colleagues.

Ipswich's Tom Hunt has remained loyal to the PM while making clear his concern about some of the revelations about Number 10 parties.

And Matt Hancock kept a very low profile while apparently trying to persuade his colleagues to back the PM in conversations around Westminster.

The interesting one, if national reports are to believed, is Bury St Edmunds MP and junior Defra minister Jo Churchill. 

She wasn't talking to the media about the confidence motion this week - but put up quite a long entry on her constituency website explaining her position.

In that she did say it was time to "move forward together" but according to some Westminster reports she is one of 13 ministers whose support was not clear enough for some Boris loyalists who want to see them replaced.

Because the figures were bad for Mr Johnson. If all 140 ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries in the Tory Parliamentary Party voted for him that would mean just over two thirds of the backbenchers wanted him out of office. 

No doubt some ministers did vote against him - but whatever way you spin this, the figures do look bad.

And many of those ministers who are now going around saying "He has a majority. He can go on" lack credibility because they were the same people running around telling the world that Theresa May had to go in 2018 after she'd won with a greater proportion of MPs' votes than Mr Johnson achieved.

And I know there is frustration on the ground that the party leadership question is overshadowing everything else.

When I called Ipswich council opposition leader Ian Fisher to ask his views, he expressed frustration the he wasn't being asked what he thought about the plans to build new sports facilities in the town.

To be fair he certainly had a point - especially as the idea of an aquatics centre on Portman Road was originally proposed by his party when it was running the borough in the late noughties.

Other political life is also likely to be overshadowed by the uncertainty that will remain at the heart of the government.

Mr Johnson presides over a split party as head of a government trying to run a split company. The vote shows that more than 40% of his own MPs don't back him as leader. When added to the opposition, that means two thirds of the House of Commons appear not to trust him.

And it is a matter of trust. Unlike previous leadership votes in the party this is not one wing of the party rebelling over a policy issue. This crisis is because MPs from different wings of the party feel they can simply no longer trust what the PM says or does.

Monday's vote showed that 148 MPs feel like that. The issue won't just go away.