Boris hints at tax cuts to woo Tory rebels and pleads move on from confidence vote

7 June 2022, 08:11 | Updated: 7 June 2022, 15:42

  • Boris Johnson hangs on as PM but Tory rebels inflict huge leadership blow
  • 148 of 359 MPs say they do not have confidence in him as leader
  • PM’s supporters insist he "has won, now let’s move on"
  • Labour says Tories are divided while Lib Dem leader says PM’s authority to lead is "totally shot"
  • Boris Johnson has pledged to "drive forward" the Government's agenda in response to the vote
Defiant Boris orders Cabinet to put infighting behind them
Defiant Boris orders Cabinet to put infighting behind them. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Boris Johnson called for a "line to be drawn" under the bruising confidence vote in his leadership which revealed 41 per cent of Tories wanted him out of the job.

He gathered the Cabinet today and demanded they work out ways of 'cutting costs' and delivering better value for money for the taxpayer. Mr Johnson even hinted at tax cuts as he tries to get leadership of the party back on track.

In a policy blitz, he told the Cabinet “we will have the scope by delivering tax cuts,” pledged action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, and laid out plans to help NHS services deal with backlogs.

He also signalled he wants to focus on his ‘levelling up’ agenda and clamp down on crime.

Mr Johnson told Cabinet: “We are able now to draw a line under the issues our opponents want to talk about and to get on and talk about what the people of this country want us to talk about.”

Former Cabinet Minister Rory Stewart told LBC today that former Tory colleagues are "completely appalled and horrified" with how Boris Johnson is leading the party and the country, and even more shocked at how "he seems to be going on as if it's business as usual."

"They thought they could keep it below 100. This is catastrophic for them. This is worse than what happened to Theresa May," Mr Stewart said.

The PM urged his senior ministers to move on and push the "massive agenda" of Levelling Up investment in the wake of the brutal confidence vote that saw more than 40 per cent of his MPs try to oust him.

He thanked them for their "hard work" in trying to save him from outright defeat yesterday. But he demanded they come up with way of "cutting costs" in government and getting better value out of services.

Earlier the Prime Minister refused to quit Downing Street and has pledged "to deliver what people care about most" after a massive revolt by Tory MP's in a crunch confidence vote.

He won a ballot on his leadership of the Tory party after backbenchers triggered one on Monday – securing 211 votes for him among Conservative MPs, while 148 rebelled.

That meant 41% of the parliamentary party voted against him, a worse result than Theresa May endured during her time as PM.

But in a bid to seize on his success on Monday night, Downing Street said on Tuesday morning that he will tell his Cabinet to "drive forward" with his agenda, and they began arriving from 9am.

And his deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said it is time to draw a line in the sand after Mr Johnson "clearly and decisively" won a leadership vote.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "When the Conservative party is in Westminster, talking to itself, it's a big distraction from the bread and butter issues that I think people expect us to be getting on with… from the cost of living through to the situation in Ukraine, and everything in between."

It said this would include helping squeezed families in the cost of living crisis, providing quicker and easier access to NHS care, tackling crime and levelling up the country.

This will include new policy commitments "that will continue to make a real difference to people's lives", No10 said, such as reduced childcare costs for parents and a "renewed drive" to get people onto the housing ladder.

Boris Johnson said: "This is a government that delivers on what the people of this country care about most.

"We have pledged £37 billion to support households with their finances, made our communities safer through hiring 13,500 more police officers, and tackled the Covid backlogs in the NHS by opening nearly 100 Community Diagnostic Centres so people can access care closer to home.

"Today, I pledge to continue delivering on these priorities. We are on the side of hard-working British people, and we are going to get on with the job."

Boris Johnson in Cabinet
Boris Johnson in Cabinet. Picture: Getty
Boris Johnson in Cabinet
Boris Johnson in Cabinet. Picture: Getty

The vote was met with huge cheers from Tory MPs who secured the Prime Minister's position as leader of the party.

Mr Johnson will be immune from another no-confidence vote for another year after 59% of Tories voted in his favour.

But opponents did not keep quiet on Tuesday. Former foreign secretary and Tory leader William Hague said Boris Johnson has experienced a "greater level of rejection" than any of his predecessors and should quit as PM.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has said Boris Johnson should "now leave with honour".

Announcing the results, Sir Graham Brady said: "I can report as returning officer that 359 ballots were cast, no spoilt ballots, that the vote in favour of having confidence in Boris Johnson as leader was 211 votes and a vote against was 148 votes.

"And therefore, I can announce that the parliamentary party does have confidence in Boris Johnson."

Boris Johnson insisted it was an "extremely good" result despite a worse performance than Theresa May in the confidence vote as he insisted was "certainly not interested in snap elections".

"What this means tonight is that we can focus on what we're doing to help people on the cost of living, with what we are doing to keep streets and communities safer," he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a "divided" Conservative Party is "propping up" Boris Johnson after the Prime Minister survived the confidence vote.

"The choice is clearer than ever before: Divided Tories propping up Boris Johnson with no plan to tackle the issues you are facing," he tweeted.

"Or a united Labour Party with a plan to fix the cost-of-living crisis and restore trust in politics. Labour will get Britain back on track."

Sir Graham Brady announced the results
Sir Graham Brady announced the results. Picture: Parliament

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result is "surely the worst of all worlds for the Tories" whilst Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Conservative MPs had "voted to keep a lawbreaker and liar in Number 10".

The embattled PM told Tories at a meeting before the crunch vote "I'll lead you to victory again" as fears grew among the rank and file that the Partygate scandal would make him a toxic prospect as party leader heading into a general election.

Sir Roger Gale previously claimed Mr Johnson planned a vote of no confidence "to get it out the way" and secure his position with winter on the horizon and the cost of living crisis set to worsen.

MPs were ordered to surrender their phones to preserve the secrecy of the vote process after two broke the rules to take photos of their ballot papers during the 2018 decision on Theresa May's leadership.

MPs lined up to cast their votes between 6pm and 8pm with reports of fiery exchanges between rebel Tories and the PM at the 1922 Committee not long before voting started.

Sir Graham Brady broke the news to Mr Johnson that he would face a confidence vote early on Sunday afternoon.

The threshold of 54 MPs calling for a vote had been passed on Sunday and Sir Graham said he had received a "clear indication" from other MPs that they would be submitting letters on Monday following the conclusion of the Platinum Jubilee festivities.

Before the vote began on Monday evening, Conservative MPs and ministers issued public declarations of support for Boris Johnson.

Read more: Tory infighting erupts as Nadine Dorries attacks 'duplicitous' Jeremy Hunt

In what appeared to be a coordinated show of support, Cabinet ministers - including potential leadership contenders Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace - declared their backing for Mr Johnson on social media.

Backbench Tories also joined in, with some tweeting a document drawn up by the Prime Minister's allies showing his achievements and setting out reasons to keep him in place.

Along with the social media comments, a concerted operation was launched to ensure allies of the Prime Minister were in front of broadcast cameras.

By mid-morning the public declarations of support had eclipsed the 54 MPs required to trigger the confidence vote.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss said: "The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today's vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him."

Mr Sunak, the Chancellor, said: "From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs."

Defence Secretary Mr Wallace said: "In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before.

"On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence."

Read more: Boris's anti-sleaze chief quits over Partygate ahead of confidence vote

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has sought to downplay the significance of a confidence vote in Boris Johnson, calling it the "routine of politics".

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: "The choice is we've got a prime minister who's got their big calls right - on the vaccine rollout, on getting the economy fired up, the leadership he's shown on Ukraine."

He said a leadership competition would be seen by the public as a "conversation amongst ourselves", adding: "I think that will feel, to many people, as self-indulgent at this important crossroads.

"So I think it's important people get behind the Prime Minister and I'm confident they will."

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who stood against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, said he would not support him, warning that keeping the Prime Minister in post would wreck the party's electoral chances.

"Having been trusted with power, Conservative MPs know in our hearts we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve," he said.

"We are not offering the integrity, competence and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential of our country.

"And because we are no longer trusted by the electorate, who know this too, we are set to lose the next general election."

Before the votes were cast Boris Johnson made a last ditch attempt to win round members of the 1922 Committee.

"The people in this room won the biggest electoral victory for the Conservatives for 40 years under my leadership," said Mr Johnson.

He said it was a "chance to stop talking about ourselves and start talking exclusively about what we are doing for the people of this country."

But senior backbencher Steve Baker stepped out of the room shortly after the speech began, telling a group waiting outside that he will be voting against the PM. "He’s clearly broken the law and he should go," he said.

Mr Baker added that Mr Johnson is likely to win the confidence vote later.

Reports emerged that Tory Mark Harper asked the PM why his "colleagues should continue to defend the indefensible" and asked why Mr Johnson removed references to "honesty and integrity" from the foreword of the ministerial code.

A senior party source said Mr Johnson rejected this "very, very aggressively".