Johnson faced the vote after a growing number of MPs in his Conservative Party questioned the British leader’s authority over what has been dubbed the “partygate” scandal.
The prime minister has been under increasing pressure after he and staff held alcohol-fuelled parties in his Downing Street office and residence when Britain was under strict lockdowns due to Covid-19.
The result was announced by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, which represents backbench Conservative MPs.
“I can announce that the parliamentary party does have confidence in the prime minister,” Brady said.
A majority of the 359 Conservative MPs – at least 180 – would have had to vote against Johnson for him to be removed, a level some Conservatives had said might be difficult to reach, given the lack of an obvious successor.
At least 145 had publicly indicated support for him ahead of the vote, a Reuters tally showed.
Johnson received 58.8 percent of support from the Conservative Party, with 41.2 percent voting against his leadership. Every single Conservative MP voted.
This result is lower than the 63 percent received by Theresa May during her leadership challenge in 2018.
“The result is at the upper end of the expectations of the rebels, who never expected to win”, writes BBC political editor Chris Mason. “They will see this as losing the battle, but the war to replace him goes on.”
Previous Tory leadership challenges
- Theresa May: In a vote over her Brexit policy, May survived a confidence vote with a majority of 83 in December 2018. Despite winning, she resigned as PM six months later
- Iain Duncan Smith: Following months of speculation the Tory leader narrowly lost a confidence vote in October 2003 and resigned
- John Major: Triggered a contest in 1995 by resigning as leader of the Tory party (though not as prime minister) amid disagreements inside the party over Europe. Major beat challenger John Redwood, but went on to lose the 1997 election
- Margaret Thatcher: Resigned as PM in 1990 after failing to win outright victory for party leadership. She beat Michael Heseltine by 204 votes to 152, but was persuaded to stand down by her Cabinet
Johnson said the result was decisive.
“What it means is as a government we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people.”
He said this was a moment and an opportunity to “put behind us” the ongoing arguments within the Conservative party from recent months over his leadership.
Asked repeatedly whether he would rule out a snap election, he said: “I’m certainly not interested in snap elections. What I’m interested in is delivering for this country.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the choice was between a “divided” Conservative party that was “propping up” Johnson, or a united Labour Party.