What is a no confidence vote? Why Boris Johnson is facing one, what it means, what happens and how it works

The announcement was made after it was confirmed that enough letters from Conservative MPs had been receieved in order to trigger the ballot

Later today (Monday 6 June), current Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face a vote of no confidence after it was confirmed by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, that he had received the 54 letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger the ballot.

But what exactly is a no confidence vote? Theresa May faced one during her time as Prime Minister in December 2018 but ultimately survived it before she resigned in 2019, where she was succeeded by Johnson.

This is everything you need to know.

What is a no confidence vote?

Simply put, a no confidence vote is a motion which questions whether a person in a position of responsibility, in this case the Prime Minister, is fit to hold said position.

The vote will determine Johnson’s future as Prime Minister following a number of public scandals during his time at No 10, including the now infamous Partygate fiasco.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends the National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 3, 2022 in London, England (Photo by Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In order for Johnson to win the vote, he must secure at least 50%, plus one vote support from the parliamentary party - this equals to 180 votes for the current Prime Minister.

How did the vote come around?

The rules state that a no confidence vote can only be triggered if at least 15% of Conservative MPs submit a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham, something which has been confirmed.

With there currently being 359 Tory MPs currently, that means at least 54 MPs had to submit a letter.

1922 Committee Chairman Sir Graham Brady leaves Downing Street on April 08, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In a statement, Sir Graham said: “The threshold of 15% of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded.”

How is it held?

The vote is held via secret ballot and will take place tonight, between 6pm and 8pm, with the votes counted immediately afterwards.

It is expected that the ballot box will be placed in a meeting room usually held for the 1922 Committee, situated on the first floor of the Palace of Westminster.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street from the House of Commons following PMQs on May 25, 2022 in London, England (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Tory MPs are forbidden from taking any pictures inside the room - this is to prevent party whips from demanding photographic evidence that an MP has voted in support of the PM.

Should an MP be away from Westminster today, they can nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf as a proxy.

After the vote concludes, Sir Graham will gather MPs and journalists in the same room it was held in to declare whether or not Johnson has won or lost the vote. He will then break down the number of votes cast in either direction.

What happens if Boris Johnson loses?

Should Johnson get less than 180 votes, the Conservative Party will choose a new leader and thus a new Prime Minister.

The UK requires a Prime Minister to remain in place at all times, so Johnson would be expected to continue in the role until his successor was selected. For reference, when Johnson replaced May in 2019, this process took two months.

Members will vote on a choice of two candidates, which have been whittled down by an earlier round of voting amongst Tory MPs. Johnson will be barred from standing in the leadership contest.

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Should Johnson wish to leave the post immediately, an interim PM would need to be chosen - most likely this would be Dominic Raab as he is deputy Prime Minister.

The Parliament website states: “Traditionally, governments that have lost a confidence vote have either resigned in favour of an alternative administration, or the Prime Minister has requested a dissolution from the Queen, triggering a general election.”

What happens if Boris Johnson wins?

Under party rules, a leader who wins a confidence vote is safe from another challenge for 12 months - however, these rules can easily change.

Theresa May gives a speech outside 10 Downing street in London on July 24, 2019 before formally tendering her resignation (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

While May survived her no confidence vote, she was forced to announce the timescale for her departure under threat of a rule change and a new vote. She announced her resignation six months later.

Should Johnson secure a victory by only a thin margin, his future prospects look all the more uncertain.