Will Boris Johnson Resign Over Partygate Fine? What Happens If The PM Quits Or Faces A Conservative Leadership Contest

The police have issued the prime minister with a fixed penalty notice for breaking his own Covid laws.
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Boris Johnson has been issued a fine by police for breaking his own lockdown laws, reigniting calls for him to resign as prime minister.

No.10 dramatically confirmed on Tuesday afternoon the PM had been handed fixed penalty notice as a result of Scotland Yard’s investigation into parties held in Downing Street during the pandemic.

When it was first revealed rules had been broken at the top of government, Johnson came under intense pressure from some Tory MPs to quit. Others said they wished to wait until the result of the investigations before deciding.

Will the prime minister resign?

Johnson has previously refused demands, from Tories as well as opposition leaders such as Labour’s Keir Starmer and Lib Dem Ed Davey, that he quit.

His allies have also said now would be the wrong time to change prime minister, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Johnson has repeatedly insisted no rules were broken. In December, Johnson told parliament that Covid rules were “followed completely in No.10”. The PM said he had been “repeatedly assured” there were no parties.

Speaking during a televised press conference on December 15, Johnson told the public: “I follow the rules.”

If Johnson does go, it will most likely be because his own MPs kick him out rather than choosing to leave No.10 voluntarily.

One Tory MP told HuffPost: “If he doesn’t get fined, he’s got away with it. But if he does, then all bets are off. I think there will be resignations from government. If the prime minister breaks the law, then consequences must flow.”

But another said: “Everybody will hold their judgment until the result of the local elections.”

There is also the question of who would takeover, given Rishi Sunak has been engulfed in his own political nightmare.

How a leadership challenge works

To mount a leadership challenge, 15% of Conservative MPs have to submit a letter.

Based on the current size of the party in the Commons, this means 54 Tory MPs have to get out their pens.

The letters are secretly sent to Sir Graham Brady. The veteran Tory MP leads the body of all backbench Conservative MPs known as the 1922 committee.

Only Brady knows how many letters he has received. In 2018, when MPs mobilised to oust Theresa May, Brady said he did not even tell his wife how many he had locked in his safe.

If and when 54 letters are delivered, a no confidence vote in Johnson would be held.

Depending what time the threshold is reached, this could even happen on the same day.

All 360 Tory MPs would vote in a secret ballot, if more than 50% vote against Johnson he would be removed as leader.

But if the rebels fail to reach that threshold Johnson would get to keep his job.

What happens if he survives the vote?

If Johnson survives the no confidence vote, party rules mean another no confidence vote could not be held for another year.

This happened in December 2018 when Tory MPs botched an attempt to get rid of May. She ultimately managed to cling on to the leadership until June 2019.

Johnson’s authority would be hugely damaged even if he did win the vote.

But it would inoculate him against another formal challenge immediately after the local elections in May, which based on current polls could be painful for the Conservatives.

What happens if he loses the vote?

If Johnson loses the no confidence vote then a leadership contest is triggered. He is not allowed to stand for re-election as leader but would likely stay in post until his successor is chosen.

How does the leadership election work

Conservative Party leadership elections have two parts.

The first stage sees Tory MPs vote in a series of rounds, whittling the list of candidates down to a final two. In the 2019 leadership race this took roughly two weeks.

The second stage sees the final two candidates go to a vote of Tory members.

In 2019, when Johnson took on Jeremy Hunt, this took around a month.

Tory leadership candidates

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, had long been seen as the frontrunner in any contest, followed closely by foreign secretary Liz Truss.

But Sunak has also been fined by police for breaking Covid rules. The chancellor has also been under intense pressure over revelations his wife held non-dom tax status and that he held a US green card while serving in No.11.

His spring statement mini-Budget earlier this month also triggered a huge backlash, with critics warning it did not to do enough to help people strugglilng with the cost of living.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who stood in 2019 and has spent his time since chairing the Commons health committee, has not ruled out standing again.

Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister and former defence secretary, has been touted as a unity candidate able to bring together pro-Brexit and socially liberal wings of the party.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has seen his profile rise during the Ukraine crisis and would be able to counter the argument he was not ready to be a wartime leader.

Other outside bets include foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat and former Brexit minister Steve Baker. And Matt Hancock might be down but never appears to consider himself out.


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