Analysis: The first rebellion against Johnson was doomed; the next one may not be

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LONDON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – A rebellion against Prime Minister Boris Johnson by some of his Conservative party’s newest MPs has quickly crumbled this week – but could be just a taste of trouble to come.

At least the revolt showed that lawmakers’ loyalty to Johnson hinges heavily on his reputation as the winner of the vote, and that reputation is in serious jeopardy.

Next week, a Civil Service report is expected to be released on a series of rallies that seemed to fly in the face of coronavirus lockdowns and have already shaken Johnson’s standing among voters – and it could be the signal for more seasoned rivals and fearsome move. against him.

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Many rebels were elected MPs for the first time in 2019 by constituencies that had not voted Conservative in decades and felt they owed Johnson those surprise victories.

But dissent had been growing for months before the rebels met twice earlier this week to gauge the appetite to try to force Johnson out, according to lawmakers, some of whom attended the meetings. All have asked to remain anonymous.

They agreed to start the process of forcing a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Johnson, who is under enormous personal pressure following revelations about rallies at his official Downing Street premises, and urged critics to await the outcome of the investigation by civil servant Sue Gray. Read more

One of the new MPs said he had struggled with the leadership of the party and Johnson’s government since November. With the regular drip of reports of lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street, they have grown bolder.

Some were frustrated that they had to vote for policies they disagreed with, some felt Johnson’s administration was failing to engage with Tory MPs, and many were angry at the way the missteps, scandals and politics were dealt with.

Johnson has repeatedly said no COVID-19 rules were broken at Downing Street, but apologized for attending a rally on May 20, 2020, for which staff had been invited by one of his assistants to “bring your own alcohol”.

“OVEREXCITED”

A disgruntled lawmaker described Johnson’s responses to the allegations, including his argument that he didn’t know the event was anything other than a business meeting, as “bullshit.”

On Tuesday, some thought they might have garnered enough support to pass the 54 written expressions of displeasure needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in Johnson in the House party.

But their plot was flawed. They failed to agree on a successor, failed to come up with a game plan to bring together the numbers they were missing and faced a party machine that undermined their attack, the sources told Reuters.

Within a day, it became clear that the 54-letter threshold had not been met. A few hours later, one of their colleagues, Christian Wakeford, left the Conservatives to join the opposition Labor Party. Read more

Several older conservatives were less than surprised when the plot failed.

A veteran Tory MP who was involved in training potential candidates said the new recruitment had not been bolstered by the experience of previous unsuccessful campaigns to get elected.

Additionally, the fact that much of their parliamentary work has been carried out virtually, due to coronavirus restrictions, means they have missed out on a more usual introduction to their parliamentary party and the work of an MP.

“When they receive emails and letters from disgruntled voters, some of whom would never vote Conservative (Conservatives) anyway, they are scared,” said a veteran Conservative lawmaker, adding that the new cohort did not know enough other older members of parliament. who to ask for advice.

“They’re all a bit overexcited,” another senior Tory official said.

But “overexcited” is not the same as “wrong”. Sue Gray’s Civil Service report is more eagerly awaited than most.

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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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