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Johnson Dangles Tax Cuts in Speech to Woo His MPs: Tory Update

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(Bloomberg) -- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a confidence vote on Monday after scores of his MPs submitted letters calling for him to step aside.

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The secret ballot will be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Westminster, with the result due to be announced at 9 p.m. Before that, Johnson had a chance to address his party, reminding MPs the Tories won their biggest election victory in 40 years on his watch and dangling the prospect of tax cuts.

His premiership is unraveling less than a year after his boosters were talking of a decade in power that would reshape the country after Brexit, his signature achievement. While the 57-year-old prime minister’s supporters are insisting he’ll win the vote, history suggests that even that is unlikely to restore his authority and give the government a renewed long-term outlook.

Key Developments:

  • Johnson Faces UK Tory Leadership Vote as Party Anger Boils Over

  • Tories Fear Johnson May Call Snap Election If He Faces Rebellion

  • Pound Traders in Untested Waters as Johnson Faces Rebellion

Johnson to Tory MPs: Time to Unite (6 p.m.)

In his speech to his party, Boris Johnson hit the typical notes of his defense, talking up the speed of the UK’s vaccine rollout during the pandemic and the country’s “leadership” in supporting Ukraine.

On the economy, the tone was directed at those traditional Tories who are worried about the surging tax rate under his government. “We all know that you can’t spend your way out of inflation, and you can’t tax your way to growth,” he said, according a transcript released by his office. He also dropped a strong hint that he wants to cut taxes, saying the government aims to reduce costs for families and businesses.

He also pledged to lead the Tories to another victory in the next general election. “Let us refuse to gratify our opponents by turning in on ourselves,” he said.

Tory Official Downplays Partygate Scandal (5:15 p.m.)

Speaking after Boris Johnson’s meeting with MPs, a senior party official told reporters the Tories should refuse to gratify opponents with infighting and said the prime minister received a big cheer when he said the party should not dance to the media’s tune.

But when he was challenged about the seriousness of the partygate scandal, the official turned the question back on reporters, asking if any of them had ever got drunk before.

It’s the kind of line that senior Tories have been repeating for weeks. The problem, though, is that it fails to appreciate that for Johnson’s critics it’s about more than him receiving a fine. It’s about leaders and officials not conforming to the pandemic rules they imposed on the country, and all the funerals and life events missed while partying was going on in Downing Street.

Johnson Dangles Tax Cuts in Bid to Woo MPs (5 p.m.)

In his 27-minute private meeting with Tory MPs ahead of Monday’s crunch vote, Boris Johnson dangled the prospect of tax cuts, according to two people present who spoke on condition of anonymity. A party official later told reporters that he could not be drawn on the details ahead of a planned speech by Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak next week.

Tory MPs Expect Johnson Victory (4:35 p.m.)

Speaking after their private meeting with Boris Johnson, Tory MPs -- including some critics -- told reporters they think the prime minister will win tonight, even if it’s by a slim margin.

“Clearly the party is in a mood to accept the prime minister’s apology,” said Steve Baker, who said he still thinks Johnson should resign having broken the law on partygate. “The reality is this is a very, very sad day.”

Johnson stood up for himself and his record during the meeting, according to MP Stuart Anderson, who called on his colleagues to unite behind Johnson and move forward. That sentiment was echoed by Leo Docherty, who described Johnson as “electoral dynamite” when the party is behind him.

Johnson Tries to Convince Tories (4:20 p.m.)

Boris Johnson is addressing his MPs ahead of the crunch vote. He is expected to tell them that the party is a force for good when united, and while reminding them that he delivered the Tories’ biggest electoral win for 40 years under his leadership, according to a person familiar with the matter.

He is also expected to warn against the return of “hellish groundhog” debates about Brexit, a reference to Tory rebel Tobias Ellwood’s call for the UK to rejoin the European Union’s single market.

Tory Members Narrowly Back Keeping Johnson (3:20 p.m.)

A snap YouGov poll showed just over half of Conservative party members say MPs should not vote to oust Johnson as prime minister, with 42% saying he should be removed. The survey of 506 grassroots Tories also put Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as the most popular successors if Johnson loses.

If Johnson were to win the vote of confidence but by a small margin, 39% of members think he should resign anyway, with 58% saying he should stay on, according to YouGov.

Brady to Announce Result at 9 p.m. on Monday (3 p.m.)

Senior Conservative MP Graham Brady will announce the result of the confidence vote at 9 p.m., moments after he messages the prime minister.

If Johnson wins, the current rules mean he cannot face another confidence vote within a year, although the rules can be changed in theory. If Johnson loses, he cannot run again in the follow-up leadership contest, according to a Conservative Party official. A vote on the next leader of the party will likely be concluded in one to three months.

The threshold of at least 54 MPs -- 15% of the Conservative total -- to trigger a leadership vote was met Sunday afternoon, according to the official, and Johnson was informed shortly afterward.

Attacks on Johnson’s Opponents Risk Backlash (2:25 p.m.)

Nadine Dorries, who as Johnson’s culture secretary, has been one of his fiercest defenders unleashed a series of tweets trashing the record of Jeremy Hunt, after Hunt called for the prime minister to be ousted (see 11:25 a.m.). She accused Hunt of “duplicity” and of “destabilizing the party and country to serve your own personal ambition.”

With Dorries known to be close to Johnson, it raised speculation in Westminster that he might have sanctioned the attack. If Johnson is associated with such heavy-handed tactics, it could drive wavering Tories into the rebel camp.

Tories Chatter About an Early Election or Reshuffle (2:10 p.m.)

Conservative MPs are milling around at Westminster discussing the likely outcome of tonight’s vote. Some are speculating that if Johnson wins by a narrow margin he may call an early general election, echoing a theory that was doing the rounds last week.

In that scenario, the party would likely suffer heavier losses if MPs refused to fall into line so that might help him to re-establish discipline. Others have suggested that Johnson could seek to stamp his authority on the party with a reshuffle of key ministers if he wins.

Davis Says Jubilee Weekend Prompted Move (1:45 p.m.)

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, a leading figure in an attempt to oust Boris Johnson in February, said the long weekend to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne was key to triggering Monday’s vote.

Tory MPs would have heard the criticism of Johnson and partygate over the long weekend in their districts, Davis told Times Radio. He also predicted the prime minister will “hang on” even if he wins by a single vote. “That’s the nature of the man,” he said.

Johnson himself endured booing from crowds and jokes at his expense during the Platinum Jubilee. One of the most humiliating aspects of partygate for the prime minister came when he was forced to apologize to the Queen for a party in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

Gambling Markets Expect Johnson Victory (12:45 p.m.)

Gamblers on the Betfair Exchange, which allows punters to bet against each other at odds they set, clearly expect Boris Johnson to win the confidence vote on Monday night.

The British prime minister is trading at odds of 1.23 to secure the 180 Tory votes to survive, meaning a £1 bet would return £1.23, including the stake. The odds on him losing the vote were 5.1.

Rees-Mogg: Single-Vote Margin Enough for PM (12:25 p.m.)

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said winning by a single vote would give Boris Johnson a mandate to continue, despite previously calling on Theresa May to resign even after she easily won a confidence vote in 2018.

“One is enough. That’s the rule in a democracy -- if you win by one you win,” Rees-Mogg said during a broadcast round on Monday. He urged Tory MPs to back Johnson, saying they owed the prime minister for the party’s landslide general election victory in 2019. “A mandate from the British people cannot be taken away lightly.”

Asked about his comments on May, he said he had learned from his mistake.

Johnson’s Anti-Corruption Tsar Resigns (11:30 a.m)

Conservative MP John Penrose, who Johnson appointed to lead on his anti-corruption agenda, has resigned his position, saying the British premier has broken the country’s ministerial code.

“I hope you will now stand aside so we can look to the future and choose your successor,” Penrose said in his resignation letter.

Jeremy Hunt Calls on Johnson to Resign (11:25 a.m.)

Jeremy Hunt, who was foreign secretary in the Tory government toppled by Johnson in 2019, says that anyone who cares about keeping the Conservatives in power at the next election should vote to oust the prime minister.

“Today’s decision is change or lose,” Hunt said in a tweet. “I will be voting for change.”

Hunt has been touted as a potential successor if the party opts to return to its more traditional values after the upheaval of Johnson’s time in office.

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