Time to draw a line under Partygate, Boris Johnson tells cabinet

Boris Johnson has promised to cut taxes and government waste after surviving an attempt by his own MPs to oust him.

The prime minister thanked ministers for their support in a confidence vote, which saw 41% of Tory MPs saying they had lost faith in him.

He urged them to “draw a line” under questions about his leadership and vowed a return to “fundamental” Tory economic policies.

The number of rebels in Monday night’s vote was higher than predicted.

And some Conservative MPs are still publicly calling on him to quit over widespread Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.

Tobias Ellwood, a longstanding critic of the PM, said the “honourable way forward” would be for him to “step back” and accept that the task of uniting the Conservative Party to win the next general election is “too big”.

But he added: “We have to deal with the reality that those days of an honourable resignation are not there.”

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Senior government figures have come out to defend Mr Johnson, including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab who said there was “no credible alternative” to the prime minister.

And backbencher Philip Davies – who voted against Mr Johnson on Monday – said: “The prime minister won fair and square. My view is that you’ve got to accept the result. If you lose a vote, you accept it. That’s the whole point of democracy.”

The PM has also received support from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who told a Financial Times event he was “very happy” the UK leader had remained in post.

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Analysis box by Nick Eardley, political correspondent
The prime minister may want to draw a line under questions over his leadership – but many of his MPs are not willing to do so.

Senior MPs have told the BBC that there would be significant pressure on the 1922 committee to change the current rules – which protect the prime minister from another confidence vote for 12 months.

Rebels believe if the Conservatives lose the two by-elections being held later this month, in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Tiverton Honiton, in Devon – that will prompt a new leadership crisis.

They also believe the scandal over lockdown parties in Downing Street is far from over, with the Commons privileges committee still to look into whether the PM misled Parliament when he denied parties had been held in downing street and insisted all rules had been followed.

That could unearth new evidence – and the conclusions could be highly damaging.

Last night’s confidence vote result does not resolve the debate on Boris Johnson’s future.

As one senior backbencher put it, it means the prime minster thinks he can stay on – but the rebels think they are within touching distance of bringing him down.

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