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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is just the latest in a long line of British leaders to risk being kicked out while in office. Under the UK political system, either the elected Parliament — or a majority of Johnson’s own Conservative Party lawmakers — can bring him down without an election and install a new prime minister. Pressure has been building on Johnson for months after a series of scandals, including the so-called “partygate” events in 10 Downing Street during the pandemic, for which the 58-year-old leader became the first premier found to have broken the law while in the top job. His chances of survival could depend on whether rules governing how the Tory party chooses its leaders are overturned. 

1. How can Johnson’s party remove him? 

The process is governed by a group of rank-and-file Conservative members of Parliament, or MPs, known as the 1922 committee. The name is a reference to a general election a century ago, which was won by the Conservatives after the collapse of a coalition government. Here’s how it works: MPs can submit letters calling for a confidence vote among committee members to its Chairman Graham Brady, who is responsible for administering the proceedings and who keeps the correspondence secret. Letters from 15% of Conservative MPs — or currently 54 lawmakers — are required to force a ballot, and Johnson would have to secure a simple majority to remain in office. 

2. Is a party vote inevitable? 

No. Johnson already survived such a vote on June 6 with 40% failing to back him and under current rules another vote can’t be held for 12 months. However there is a movement to change the rules to allow another one sooner. The 1922 Committee was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss a potential rule change. 

3. How could Parliament remove him? 

The leader of the main opposition party, Labour’s Keir Starmer, can call a confidence vote in the House of Commons at any point and the convention is that one would then be held. It needs a simple majority to pass. If the government loses, it has 14 days to try to win another vote, most likely by selecting a different Tory leader. If the government cannot command the confidence of the Commons after two weeks, a general election is triggered. That’s an outcome Conservative MPs are likely to want to avoid as their party was trailing Labour in an Observer poll in June. 

4. Could Johnson hold on?

It’s possible. MPs leave for their summer vacation in late July and don’t return until early September. If Johnson can outmaneuver his opponents and stay in office until then, he could cling on a while longer. 

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