Confidence vote front pages: Only Mail and Express support Boris Johnson

Mail and Express Boris Johnson's only Fleet Street friends after confidence vote

Boris Johnson confidence vote front pages

The Daily Mail and Daily Express were the only national newspapers that found anything positive to say for Prime Minister Boris Johnson on their front pages after 148 of his own MPs called for him to resign in a confidence vote.

The consensus from the rest of Fleet Street was that Johnson has been deeply wounded by the result.

The Times called Johnson “wounded victor” on its front page and noted that his margin of victory was less than that of Theresa May when she survived a confidence vote in 2019 only to be ousted seven months later. It noted that it was the same margin of victory as Margaret Thatcher in her 1990 confidence vote. She resigned two days later after her cabinet turned on her.

Times Boris Johnson front page

The FT, Metro, Mirror, Guardian, i and The Sun all drew similar conclusions with their front pages, which emphasised the damage done to Johnson by the size of the revolt.

 

 

The right-wing Daily Telegraph was similarly damning, noting that Johnson’s authority had been “crushed” by the vote. Its banner headline said starkly: “Hollow victory tears Tories apart.”

Only the Daily Mail and Daily Express found anything positive to say about the situation for Johnson, continuing their trend of strongly supporting the Prime Minister throughout his challenges this year.

Press Gazette analysis of national newspaper front pages from 14 January to 25 May this year found the Daily Mail has covered Partygate and Beergate 22 times on its front page in that time with 91% of the coverage supportive of the Prime Minister despite strong criticism elsewhere in the media.

The Express covered the row over lockdown-breaking gatherings at Downing Street and allegations against Keir Starmer around beer drinking and curry eating at a work gathering 20 times, casting the stories in a positive light for the Prime Minister 70% of the time.

Today The Daily Express focused on the positive, describing Johnson as "defiant and unbowed" and quoting his "renewed mandate to deliver for Britain on its front page".

The Daily Mail attacked Tory rebels on its front page saying they had "hit the self-destruct button by opening the door to smirking Starmer's coalition of chaos".

Its headline said: "Boris vows: I'll bash on" and said that the "cabinet rallies round".

In its leader column the Daily Mail described the confidence vote result as "disappointing".

Since the ousting of Geordie Greig in November 2021 after three years as Daily Mail editor, the UK's top-selling daily has consistently indicated that it will forgive Boris Johnson for minor indiscretions because he had delivered Brexit.

Today it said that voters' hearts "must have sunk" to see last night's vote by Tory MPs.

(According to Yougov, 68% of voters think Johnson is doing badly as prime minister.)

The Mail said: "Just 30 months ago they elected Boris by a landslide to deliver Brexit and realise his vision of uniting and levelling up the country.

"Within weeks he had delivered on the first part of the bargain, pushing through the withdrawal agreement Remainers had said was impossible.

"On the second, he made an energetic start even before Covid struck, announcing new freeports and authorising thousands of Whitehall jobs to be moved northwards.

"Yet now, as if in some bleak 21st-century Shakespearean tragedy, his own colleagues — vast numbers of whom would never have been elected without him — are conspiring to bring him down.

"It is as undemocratic as it is treacherous."

For the Daily Mail, the anti-Boris revolt is coloured by Brexit, not Partygate, noting that chief Tory critic of the prime minister Jeremy Hunt voted Remain in the referendum.

It said: "When will he and his fellow travellers realise the Brexit battle is over and that they lost?"

In its leader column the Daily Express described Johnson as "a serious politician and leader", adding: "He was right about supporting Brexit and then getting Brexit done with a very good deal with the EU."

But the Telegraph said in its leader that Johnson's problems are about personality rather than policy: "Mr Johnson’s supporters say that, with the confidence vote out of the way, the party and the Government can 'move on from the distractions'. But it is he who is the distraction and for as long as he stays in office he will remain so unless he can bring the party together behind an agreed strategy."

The Times was even more downbeat about Johnson's prospects after yesterday's "Pyrrhic victory": "If Mr Johnson is to avoid leading the Tories to a calamitous defeat in the next election, he will need to show a degree of grip and focus that has been largely absent so far in his premiership, even under his present third team of advisers.

"Yet the danger is that his authority has been so badly dented that he will find it increasingly hard to get anything done. The temptation instead will be to continue to seek to shore up his position by seeking to foment new divisions, whether by fostering culture wars at home or stoking new conflicts with the European Union, or indeed launching fresh assaults on British institutions. At a time of unprecedented challenges facing the country, that would be a mistake. The public would be unlikely to forgive such a profound lack of seriousness."

The Daily Star made its feelings clear with a colourful front page emphasising Johnson's dishonesty.

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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette