What does the vote on Boris Johnson mean?

BORIS Johnson faces a crunch vote on Thursday which could see him referred to a powerful Commons committee on standards.

Opposition parties have secured a vote which will allow MPs to formally debate whether the Prime Minister misled parliament by repeatedly saying all rules had been followed in Downing Street – despite him later being found to have broken the law.

If the vote passes, he will be sent to the privileges committee, which will investigate the matter. Worryingly for Johnson, it wields the power to demand evidence and photographs gathered by Sue Gray for her internal report.

READ MORE: Motion calling for investigation into PM for 'misleading parliament' released

Chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant, the Prime Minister reportedly dismissed it as the “Bryant committee”.

But Bryant has promised he will renounce his chairmanship of the committee – which has a Conservative majority – if the vote is successful.

A so-called wrecking amendment has been tabled by the Government that would delay any decision on whether the Prime Minister should be referred to the committee until after the Sue Gray report is published in full. 

Bryant said the Government motion has only been tabled because so many Tory MPs have told the party whips they would not back the PM. 

If Johnson was found by MPs to have misled parliament, it is understood this would be a first in UK political history.

However, late on Wednesday night, the Government tabled an amendment to defer the vote on the Commons inquiry until the Metropolitan Police’s own probe into lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall has concluded, and the Sue Gray report has been published.

This will allow MPs “to have all the facts at their disposal” when they make a decision, Number 10 claimed.

It is understood that all Tory MPs are being whipped to support the amendment.

A Labour source claimed that any Conservative supporting the amendment would be “voting for a cover up”.

What are the risks?

Depends on who’s asking. For the Prime Minister, the risks appear small. Most Tory MPs are keen to move on from Covid which has largely been a distraction from the agenda Johnson wanted to crack on with when he gained his majority in 2019.

They are also likely to cite the crisis in Ukraine as a reason for wanting to back Johnson.

This might not wash in a Commons debate on the actual facts of whether he misled parliament but will feature in their justifications for voting to protect the PM after the count.

READ MORE: Chris Bryant to stand down as committee chair if PM investigation goes ahead

For the opposition, the risks appear higher. If Johnson is not referred to the privileges committee, it is possible to him to claim, as Trump did after the Mueller report, he has been “completely exonerated” by parliament.

While this might not convince voters, the opposition or the media, it will be another retort in his arsenal and could buy him time.

The vote will be whipped and for the opposition to be successful, at least 100 Tory MPs would be required to turn on the Prime Minister.

Given that there are likely less than 20 letters into the 1922 Committee – which has the power to call a no-confidence vote in the Tory leader – it seems the number are on Johnson’s side.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross is understood to be defying the Tory whips and dodging the vote.

What other risks are facing the Prime Minister?

Thursday's vote, while important, is hardly the only challenge facing Johnson. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police are still investigating other lockdown breaches in Downing Street and a full version of the Sue Gray report is expected once those probes close.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross to dodge vote on 'lying' probe into Boris Johnson

Next month, Scotland, Wales and London as well as some parts of England go to the polls for the local elections. It is predicted the results will be humiliating for Johnson.

His political future currently lies in his reputation as a vote winner – the man who delivered their huge Westminster majority in 2019.

But if that starts to crumble, his fortunes may turn.