Boris Johnson resignation: What happens now? 7

Boris Johnson resignation: What happens now?

Boris Johnson has resigned as Conservative leader and will step down as prime minister when a new leader is found – but what happens now?

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street when announcing his resignation, Johnson thanked the British people for their support and said he will continue with the job until the autumn while a leadership contest takes place in the coming months.

Johnson also said that the process of choosing a new leader “should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week”.

How will the leadership contest work?

The process begins with the Tory Party’s 1922 Committee inviting nominations from all Conservative MPs who wish to take over and setting a deadline for applications.

Each candidate must win support from 20 Tory MPs if they want to get on the initial shortlist.

Once the nominations close, MPs will hold a series of votes until only two candidates are left.

Secret ballots will be held and after every round of MP voting. The candidate who secures the least support among MPs is eliminated until just two remain.

The final two candidates are voted on by party members – there are around 200,000 – after a longer process involving a series of hustings events. 

The person who gets the most votes wins overall and becomes the new prime minister.

In 2019, when Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May, the entire leadership process took about six weeks.

Will Johnson remain in power until the leadership contest ends?

Downing Street has said Boris Johnson will remain prime minister until the leadership contest ends, but critics say he should step down immediately and let someone else be an interim PM. They included George Freeman, who resigned as science minister this week.

Johnson is negotiating the exact date of his departure with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, that sets the rules for how the parliamentary Conservative party operates.

Could he go any sooner?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says if Johnson is not removed at once, he will call a vote of no confidence.

Under a motion of no confidence, all MPs would get to vote. One more MP voting in favour than voting against would be required for it to pass.

If the government loses, it has 14 days to try to win back the confidence of MPs in another vote. During this time opposition parties can attempt to form an alternative government.

There are three possible scenarios following a successful no-confidence motion:

MPs agree on a new prime minister and government, and this government leads without any need for a general election

MPs do not agree on a new prime minister and government, and a general election must be called within seven weeks of the confidence vote

Existing government wins the second confidence vote and stays in place

Does Johnson still have powers as a prime minister?

Yes. Until he officially gives up the office of prime minister, he still has the same powers, in theory. But he now lacks the authority to introduce any radical new policies.

He will still represent the UK abroad and can make public appointments or changes to his team of ministers.

Will there be a general election?

When a prime minister resigns, there is not automatically a general election.

There is no obligation on the next Tory leader to call an election and it seems unlikely they would want to do so straight away, given recent polling which has consistently put Labour in the lead.

Photo credit for the featured image: Chatham House via CC by 2.0. (Creative Commons)

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