Boris dodges snap election

The government won the vote by 349 to 238, with the Conservative Party MPs rallied behind the outgoing Prime Minister…reports Asian Lite News

Lawmakers in the House of Commons, the lower house of the British parliament, backed outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in a confidence vote.

Johnson’s government on Monday evening called for the confidence vote itself to see off a rival move by the main opposition Labour Party that could have led to a snap general election, Xinhua news agency reported.

The government won the vote by 349 to 238, with the Conservative Party MPs rallied behind the outgoing Prime Minister.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, urged MPs to vote no confidence for Johnson, adding: “Britain deserves a fresh start with Labour, free from those who got us stuck in the first place, free from the chaotic Tory party and free from those who propped up this Prime Minister for months and months.”

“Today, we finally have a chance to cast our verdict on a failed Prime Minister and a Conservative party that is collapsing before our very eyes,” Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, said in the debate in the Commons.

Johnson resigned earlier this July as party leader, the title that also gives him the job of Prime Minister.

In 2019, just months after moving into 10 Downing Street, Johnson called a snap general election, winning the Conservatives an 80-seat majority, one of the biggest successes in the party’s post-war history.

But amid a series of scandals, ranging from so-called parties at 10 Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdown to his handling of a scandal over a close ally involved in alleged sexual misbehaviour, Johnson bowed to pressure to stand down.

Earlier on Monday, the number of candidates in the race to succeed Johnson as party leader and the Prime Minister was reduced to four: Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch.

Rishi Sunak widens lead

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak widened his lead in the latest round of voting Monday by Conservative MPs to decide Britain’s next prime minister, but the race to get in the final two tightened.

Sunak won the support of 115 Tory lawmakers, followed by Penny Mordaunt on 82 votes, Liz Truss on 71, Kemi Badenoch on 58 and Tom Tugendhat on 31, who drops out as the last-placed candidate, the party announced.

MPs will keep voting until only two candidates remain, the winner then being decided by the party members.

Mordaunt had been bookmakers’ favourite before the weekend, but lost votes from the previous round.

Foreign Secretary Truss closed the gap to 11 and can probably expect more support switching to her from Badenoch’s backers, should the insurgent candidate be eliminated in the next round, promising a tense race to make the final cut Wednesday.

Television bosses earlier Monday scrapped a planned debate between the remaining contenders for Tuesday night after Sunak and Truss pulled out, said Sky News, which was due to host it.

“Conservative MPs are said to be concerned about the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party,” it added in a statement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on July 7 he was quitting as Conservative leader after a government rebellion in protest at his scandal-hit administration.

He is staying on as prime minister until his successor is announced on September 5.

In the two previous televised debates — on Channel 4 Friday and the ITV network Sunday — the contenders clashed notably on whether to cut taxes to help ease a soaring cost of living crisis.

But Sunday’s clash turned more acrimonious — and personal — with candidates encouraged to directly criticise one another and their proposals.

Sunak called out Truss for voting against Brexit, her previous membership of the Liberal Democrats, and her position on tax.

In turn, Truss questioned Sunak’s stewardship of the economy.

Badenoch attacked Mordaunt for her stance on transgender rights — a rallying call in the “culture wars” exercising the Tory right.

Paul Goodman, from the ConservativeHome website, likened the debates to a “political version of ‘The Hunger Games'” and questioned why they had agreed to it.

“Tory MPs and activists will have watched in horror as several of the candidates flung buckets of manure over each other,” he wrote.

He questioned why they would publicly accept to criticise the record of the government that all but one of them served in, or the policies they supported as ministers.

Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak Spring Statement. Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak on his way to the Cabinet room for the Prime Minister’s weekly Cabinet meeting before delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons . Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The main opposition Labour party has called for Johnson to leave immediately.

During the debate, Johnson defended his government’s record, citing the vaccine rollout and support of Ukraine.

“I believe this is one the most dynamic governments of modern times, not just overcoming adversity on a scale we haven’t seen for centuries but delivering throughout adversity.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joked that his one-time sparring partner was taking MPs on a “fantasy tour of this country”.

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