No-confidence vote: how weak is Johnson?

In the wake of the Partygate scandal, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived a vote of no confidence put forward by his party, but around 40 percent of Tory MPs voted against him. Commentators take different views of what this means for Johnson and for British politics.

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Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

A dangerous old ploy

Johnson may once more use the EU as a scapegoat to divert attention from his problems in domestic politics, fears Der Tagesspiegel:

“Resentment against the EU is precisely what made Johnson great politically. His 2016 pro-Brexit campaign paved his way into the British cabinet back then. ... The fact that the British have gone back to business as usual after Brexit and no longer want to be bothered much with the EU doesn't seem to worry him. He may soon present a bill that repeals parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. ... An abrogation of the Protocol would provoke a trade war between Britain and the EU. Johnson should think carefully about whether he really wants to put the British through all that.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Westminster needs a realistic approach

The close result of the no-confidence vote is a sign of political instability, NRC Handelsblad warns:

“British politics will only really change course when the Tory leader realises that the Brexit strategy that serves the country's interests has to be damage limitation - with a realistic view of Northern Ireland and British-European economic relations. Only then will the entire British political spectrum be able to start to stabilise after six years of turbulence. ... It is encouraging that the Tories have been able to organise internal criticism on a large scale. Now this criticism needs to be extended from the parties to future relations with the European Union.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

The shine has worn off

The result of the no-confidence vote can in no way be passed off as a victory for Boris Johnson, Echo24 insists:

“Just a few years ago Johnson seemed to offer hope to the conservatives of this world. An eloquent man who regularly pushed the boundaries of political correctness, personally a liberal and yet someone for whom Margaret Thatcher once had a soft spot; an educated politician who also appealed to the working classes. But either he lost those qualities or he never had them to begin with. ... Nevertheless, Tory MPs would probably not have tried to unseat him if they had not by now sensed the widespread contempt for 'Boris'.”

The Times (GB) /

Clinging on, but the end is nigh

Johnson is by no means out of the woods yet, The Times points out:

“Further moments of political peril lie ahead. The next electoral test will be the by-elections in the northern red-wall seat of Wakefield and the blue-wall seat of Tiverton & Honiton where the Tories are defending large majorities but polls suggest they are on course for heavy defeats. Then there is the privileges committee investigation into whether Mr Johnson deliberately misled parliament over the Downing Street lockdown parties. A ruling against him would surely require his resignation. But even if Mr Johnson survives these tests, the broader question is what he intends to do to regain public trust before the next election.”

Polityka (PL) /

Victory for the PM but a defeat for the country

Polityka sees Johnson as a liability for the UK:

“Dissatisfaction with Westminster is growing in the UK, and trust in the public institutions, which is fundamental to British politics and relations between the state and its citizens, is declining. In theory, the prime minister can relax until the end of the year, because the rules provide for only one vote of no confidence every 12 months. ... But another political assassination attempt against the head of government in the near future cannot be ruled out. Boris Johnson has stood his ground this time. He won, at least he himself won. But the whole of the UK lost.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Even the most skilled tightrope walkers may fall

Luck will not always be on Johnson's side, La Repubblica predicts:

“His undisputed skill so far has been his ability to weather all controversies. But even the most skilled tightrope walkers fall sooner or later because of the risks they take. Back in 1988, when he was still a novice journalist, he was fired from The Times after it emerged that he had fabricated an article. Years later, as Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, he was accused of twisting news story after news story. ... Later, as a columnist for the same daily, he was accused of homophobia, racism and Islamophobia.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

The biggest problem is his character

The prime minister has shown that he is unsuited for the office several times during his tenure, the Wiener Zeitung points out:

“With his brazen lies and absurd promises Johnson was instrumental in securing a majority for the pro-Brexit camp. ... His biggest problem has always been his character flaws: during his time at the elite Eton College and venerable Oxford he was apparently taught neither a sense of propriety nor sincerity or integrity. As prime minister, he sent the British into a hard lockdown while he himself partied with his inner circle colleagues.”