Johnson’s August 2) Finding support among opposition MPs – or at least trying to – before any no confidence vote

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

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That no confidence vote may come next week, in the wake of the declaration of the leadership election result, though this is on balance unlikely.

But whether it does or not, it is worth beginning to think through the arithmetic, as Dominic Walsh has done in the New Statesman.

It is probable that in the wake of the Brecon by-election, as Walsh says, the Government will have an effective majority of three.

That would be 311 Tory MPs plus ten DUP MPs: so a maximum of 321 of these MPs would face a maximum of 318 other MPs.

We do not know how many Conservative MPs would refuse to support Johnson, or even oppose him, in a no-confidence vote in the Commons.

The new Downing Street team should, however, look closely at the 15 independent MPs: of these, two abstained in January’s no confidence debate: Ivan Lewis and John Woodcock while one, Sylvia Hermon, voted with the Government.

Back in January, there were only eight independents.  One of these, Fiona Onasanya, is no longer an MP. That leaves seven – Frank Field, Kelvin Hopkins, Jared O’Mara and Stephen Lloyd, plus the three named above.

To them, we can add Ian Austin, Nick Boles and Chris Williamson; and then Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Sarah Wollaston – about half of the original Change UK group.

Then there is the other part of that group: what now calls itself the Independent Group for Change (do keep up): that’s Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan and Anna Soubry.

That raises the total of votes in play to 20.  But it is not quite the end of the story.

For there is a small group of Labour MPs who sometimes vote with the Government on Brexit.  Their numbers rises and falls, but as recently as June eight of Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers went into the same lobby as the Government to oppose a move headed by their party to take control of Commons business.

They were: Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer.  Which brings us to 28.

Now every single one of these MPs might well vote against a Johnson Government in the event of a no confidence vote.

The new Prime Minister himself might not be the best person to deal directly with any of them.  And the Commons will of course not be sitting in August.  (That’s the plan, anyway.)

But his Downing Street Team, or those Conservative MPs best placed, might want to talk in particular to Austin and Hoey, and just conceivably Barron who, like Hoey, is retiring.

And that’s before taking into account any other Opposition MP who could sit on their hands rather than vote in such a way as to make an imminent Corbyn Government likely.

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Author: Paul Goodman

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