There will be a vote of no confidence in the prime minister of the UK today, but it is limited to Conservative MPs only and requires a majority of them to pass the motion. None of the media coverage I saw explained why the vote is limited to Conservative MPs. If the vote is open to the opposition as well, there will be a very good chance for the PM to lose. So what is the justification for this limitation? Why can't the opposition vote?


2 Answers 2


Because it's not a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister, it's a vote of confidence in the Leader of the Conservative Party, who also happens to be the Prime Minister. See the announcement from the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady:

The threshold of 15 per cent of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded. In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 TODAY MONDAY 6th JUNE — details to be confirmed. The votes will be counted immediately afterwards. An announcement will be made at a time to be advised. Arrangements for the announcement will be released later today.

The vote is being held under the rules of this committee - made up of all Conservative party MPs. The full process of the confidence vote and any subsequent leadership election is explained in this House of Commons Briefing Paper here. If Boris Johnson is unsuccessful in a confidence vote, he will remain as Prime Minister until a new Conservative party leader is chosen, who will then be invited by the monarch to form a government and take over as Prime Minister.

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    So essentially it's using internal party politics to avoid the possibility of dissolving parliament and bringing about another snap election as a result of losing a vote of no confidence? Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 23:34
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    In a de facto two-party system the lack of support of the opposition for anything undertaken by the party in power can all but taken as read. So ironically (or paradoxically) calls from the leader of the opposition for the PM to resign are not as big a deal as they ought to be.
    – Deipatrous
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 9:51
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    @AlexanderThe1st - We don't have a president, so changing the PM doesn't need to result in a general election. In fact, it's more common for a new PM to become PM as a result of an internal leadership change than because they've won an election; fullfact.org/news/unelected-prime-ministers-common-or-not
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 10:55
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    @AlexanderThe1st: The UK does not like coalitions, as a rule of thumb. At the moment, the Conservative party holds an absolute majority, and does not need a coalition to govern.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 22:13
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    @AlexanderThe1st Leadership changes as a result of internal party politics without immediate elections are by no mean rare in Canada (see Jason Kenney, or basically every conservative Alberta premier in the last 20 years; federally, how Paul Martin came to power). The difference is that in Canada the parliamentary party usually does not have the power to remove a party leader in most parties' constitutions (a power that's reserved to the members' convention).
    – xngtng
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 12:48

I want to clarify one thing: It is possible for a Parliamentary vote of no confidence to be held, in which case the entire parliament would be voting for the fate of the government, including the opposition. Such a vote can be called by the leader of the opposition, who in this case would be Keir Starmer.

One reason I wanted to clarify this was that Boris Johnson had almost 150 of the conservative MPs vote against him, and it is such that Johnson's majority in Parliament is only around 40 or so MPs. It would not be impossible or even unlikely that in the event of a Parliamentary vote of no confidence, enough of these MPs would vote against the government for the vote to succeed. In this case, either the government must resign or the PM must ask the Queen to dissolve parliament such that new elections can be held.

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    The other important difference is that, in a leadership contest, only the members of the Conservative party get to vote, and the Conservatives almost surely hold onto their majority (unless something really wild happens, such as the party splitting over the new leader). A Parliamentary vote of no confidence (probably) leads to a general election, at which point those MPs who voted against the government are immediately forced to explain themselves to their constituents, who might not be pleased that they brought down the government.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 22:41
  • Also, having won the vote of no confidence as leader of the Conservative party, Boris Johnson has another year before he can be replaced as leader (unless he resigns, which I think is highly unlikely). So a snap election now would mean an election while the party is still lead by Johnson; Conservative MPs who want him gone might still reason that it is better to wait to replace him with somebody more popular before holding a general election.
    – kaya3
    Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 5:44
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    "It would not be impossible or even unlikely that in the event of a Parliamentary vote of no confidence, enough of these MPs would vote against the government for the vote to succeed." It would be extemely unlikely that ANY of these MPs would vote in favour of a no confidence motion on the government and any who did so would lose the Tory whip and be ineligible to stand as a Tory in a future election. One of the primary reasons for Tory MPs voting against Boris Johnson is that they think he will lose a General Election, they will have no interest or appetite for bring that GE forward.
    – deep64blue
    Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 15:52

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