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Quest Means Business
Voting Closes In Secret Ballot On British PM's Leadership; Boris Johnson Speaks By Phone With Ukrainian President; Russia Strikes Kyiv With Missiles For First Time In Months; Soon: Results Of Boris Johnson Confidence Vote Revealed. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired June 06, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour. It is eight o'clock in London and a very good evening to you.
So the votes have been cast, the secret ballot is closed and in the next hour, the fate of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be
Only moments ago MPs, Tory MPs -- his party MPs finished voting in the ballot of no confidence. The goal of the ballot of course, is whether to
unseat the British Prime Minister. Nerve racking as the votes are cast for Boris Johnson. He will find out at the end of it all of course, whether he
still has the job, the backing after this bruising confidence vote.
Sir Graham Brady is the Chair of the 1922 Backbench Committee, don't worry why it's called that, we will explain that at some point this evening.
Anyway, he will announce the outcome at 9:00 PM. That's in an hour from now.
So who has been doing the voting? They are conservative lawmakers, his own MPs, they will be gathering with the result in about 40 minutes from now.
It was their discontent, his own back benchers, his own party members, if you will, about the party-gate scandal and the cost of living crisis that
sparked this evening's dramatic rebellion, and it did happen very quickly.
So how can we actually get here, it is worth looking at it and the confidence motion that's been passed, or at least that's been put before
The vote was triggered, because at least 54 Conservative MPs, that's about 15 percent of his MPs said they could no longer support him. It was
announced by this 1922 Committee Chairman, which represents them, the back benchers, if you will; not Cabinet ministers, not government Ministers, not
those on the payroll.
If a majority fail to back him, he will be forced out of Downing Street. He also be allowed to run in the race for the replacement. And more than that,
even if he wins by a small margin, it will be touch and go. Isa is with me, Isa Soares.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
QUEST: It has happened so quickly.
SOARES: It happened so quickly, and what that graph does not show you Richard is even if he does, of course, if he does win by a significant
margin or whatever, it doesn't mean necessarily that he will be able to hold on to his position in the long term.
So the number has to be significant. Look at Theresa May. Look at Margaret Thatcher. Theresa May had two-thirds, correct? Am I correct?
QUEST: Yes. But here, we haven't had a deluge of letters. The way it works is, you have to send a letter to the Chairman of this Committee and when it
reaches the 15 percent limit -- level -- then you have this election.
Now, they've dribbled in these letters over many months.
SOARES: That's the threshold. We do not know how many --
SOARES: That's the threshold. So they wouldn't -- the 1922 Committee would not say how many letters actually, so there is no way of knowing, but the
threshold has been met.
SOARES: Hence why the vote has taken place.
QUEST: But Isa, the rules are very quick aren't they? The vote has to be held very quickly. And if he wins tonight, he is quasi safe for a year.
SOARES: Yes, and I think the fact that it is happening quickly, I think plays to his advantage because there is no time to plot.
SOARES: Right? There is no time to plot against him, which Jacob Rees- Mogg, a Conservative MP has been saying today that what this is in fact, is a planned, a well-organized plan by those remainers, the begrudged
remainers who have -- who want him unseated. Do I buy that? No.
Because in the previous hour, my guest was a Brexiteer, and he actually put a letter of vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson.
QUEST: What are they afraid of? Is it as naked and venal, as afraid for their own electoral outlook at the next election?
SOARES: Absolutely. This is all -- was I too blunt there? My answer?
QUEST: No, it is politics.
SOARES: But you know how this works. They are trying -- and you know, what this is about. I know you mentioned the cost of living crisis and you know,
inflation, lots of other countries are dealing with inflation, but what goes to the heart of this is the man, it is not the policy. It is the man
and the way he holds on to that, potentially, how he has carried himself and it goes to the heart of partygate.
The cake, the boozing -- one rule for them, a rule for everyone else. And worth reminding our viewers, Richard, this is a time when he asked the
country of course, not to see loved ones and what we know now from the Sue Gray report is that what was happening behind closed doors, so the
QUEST: But also I think that on this question of he did. I mean, it is -- the country wanted him because he was perceived as the right person to get
Brexit done. He was a chance. He knew --
SOARES: He knew the risks, yes.
QUEST: And you know, look, the truth is, I mean, I've met Boris Johnson many times. He is exactly the person you hope to sit next to at dinner,
because he's a witty raconteur.
SOARES: He is charismatic.
QUEST: Delightfully charming, and all of those things.
SOARES: But that should -- I mean, I think people, the voters of the country has seen past that, they've seen right through that. And, you know,
what we've been hearing time and time again, is that they want someone who can lead and who has integrity. Go ahead.
QUEST: On this point, because you talked about the cost of living.
QUEST: I got a letter from the electricity company for my flat. I got a letter telling me that my electricity bill -- wait for this -- is going up
63 percent because of the cap.
QUEST: I mean -- and now, the mortgage has gone up twice -- three times. So people in Britain, I mean, I'm sure where you are, you're having similar
sorts of issues and problems yourself. But the point is, here you have a Prime Minister who is on the ropes.
SOARES: But Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Conservatives and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's allies would say, hold on, Richard, you know, what we are seeing,
everyone else is seeing inflation, the U.S. is seeing it. You know, the cost -- the cost of your gas or electricity bills that has to do with the
war in Ukraine. That has been their argument, time and time again.
But the reason we're here and from what we've seen from those letters, is that those Members of the Conservative Party want to now -- they don't
believe that he can be trusted, Richard.
QUEST: You'll be around. You're not going anywhere.
SOARES: Of course, I'm sure you won't let me go anywhere.
QUEST: You're right. I won't.
In the days before British lawmakers called for this confidence vote against Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister heard from critics at a rather
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
QUEST: So the PM and his wife were met bright chorus of boos, and there were some cheers outside the Queen's Jubilee Thanksgiving Service. He got a
similar reception as he arrived for the Platinum Party at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
Bianca is outside Number 10 Downing Street tonight.
Bianca, the issue is will he win?
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the issue. That's the question. That boo that you just showed though, I think says a lot because
monarchists, those who are enthusiastic enough to be waiting to see the Royals go into the Cathedral are people that would typically be
conservative supporters if you're looking at voting blocs.
And for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be booed in such a setting really does say that his popularity has slumped to an all-time low.
The mood is strange inside Parliament. The outlook has become more and more grim as the days gone on. MPs know that a vote of confidence in their
leader and all of the fratricidal infighting that comes with it does not make the party look good.
Whether Boris Johnson wins or loses, it shows the Conservative Party in a bad light and really exposes its dirty laundry for all to see, as we've
seen in resignation letters today, outspoken criticism against the PM. They might feel strongly against the Prime Minister, but those MPs still know
that it's not making their party look particularly good brand-wise to the electorate, that they're all fighting and complaining about each other.
QUEST: Bianca, tonight, the fact that happened now, today, on this random Monday in in June, is it just a numbers game? In other words, this was the
day when they went over the threshold? Because it's not as if there was a deluge of letters all at once?
NOBILO: No, I think there have been several moments where there is likely to have been a spike in letters, and we've had some public announcements
that people have put them in because of course sending a letter to this Committee is a private endeavor. It's usually secret and the ratio of MPs
who declare publicly that they've sent one to those who've actually sent them -- just checking if anybody was going in behind me, now we're all
clear -- is usually you get a lot more people declaring that they -- a lot more people submitting letters than declaring those letters. So it's very
difficult to tell.
In terms of why this moment, well, from a practical perspective, it was considered that the Conservative Party and Graham Brady did not want to
overshadow the Jubilee in any way. It is completely in contrast to the festivities in honor of the Queen, so there was no way that this vote was
going to be announced to conflict with that.
But it was also the aftermath of the partygate scandal and more and more anger from constituents and I think that's why this weekend was so crucial
because those MPs went back to their constituencies to have street parties and celebrations with their voters and they heard that anger, which is not
going away against the Prime Minister and they really are starting to understand that they don't think this man who prides himself and builds his
political brand on being an election winner couldn't any longer deliver that for them.
QUEST: Bianca, you will be at Number 10 watching events for us. I'm grateful for you. Thank you.
Tonight's vote follows a long list of scandals involving the Prime Minister. Most recently, of course, it's partygate that's really caused him
the most misery and the swift condemnation after it was revealed that Boris Johnson and his staff partied together during the strictest of COVID
lockdowns. In other words, breaking the very rules that they had set for everybody else.
A damning report, the Sue Gray called out the administration for its culture of rule breaking. And in 2019, at the height of the Brexit crisis,
when the Prime Minister suspended Parliament for longer than typical, another example of it, the Supreme Court ruled that was unlawful.
Also, of course, the way the Prime Minister dealt with Her Majesty, the Queen.
Joining me now Giles Kenningham, the founder of the Trafalgar Strategy, former head of political press to Prime Minister David Cameron. How --
let's be realistic here tonight. What is a number that secures Boris Johnson's position going forward, as opposed to what keeps him on the
GILES KENNINGHAM, FOUNDER, TRAFALGAR STRATEGY: I don't know, Richard, if any number actually secures his future, because the very fact we are here
now in this position, to some extent, some people may argue has fatally undermined his authority.
Now remember, no Prime Minister has really ever fully recovered from one of these votes. Theresa May faced a vote of no confidence in 2018. She was
gone six months later. You know, Margaret Thatcher faced one, she was gone within weeks. John Major faced one, he won, he limped on and then got
absolutely crushed at the 1997 election.
So actually, I think, it is pretty difficult. Now, if, let's say, hypothetically, the numbers stay around 54 or 55, which was what was needed
to get to trigger this vote, then maybe he is okay.
But you know, as soon as you get up its numbers of 80 or 90, you've know, you've got a party, you've got almost a third of your party, which is
uncomfortable. They just doesn't want you there. That is unsustainable. We know divided parties don't win elections.
And remember, you've still got some very problematic issues coming down the line, you've got two by-elections, one in Wakefield, which the Tories are
expected to lose and the so-called red wall, and one in Tiverton in the southwest, which is a key blue wall battleground.
Now, if they lose that, I think you can see a fresh round of bloodletting, even if Boris Johnson does survive tonight in this vote. I do think he will
win tonight, but that's really going to be a hollow victory.
QUEST: And just looking at the content of the letter from Jesse Norman, who was an ally, a former ally. Now, writing in his letter, asking for a
vote, he calls it -- he says, "Boris Johnson have presided over a culture of casual law breaking." But there is the other issue as well, which is
important, which is the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of the Brexit and Northern Ireland agreement.
Now, the cavalier way, as seen by some that they are about to trounce that treaty is also giving cause for concern about his Premiership.
KENNINGHAM: Of course, and you know, you put your finger on there. The fact people are speaking so openly, so publicly, without caveats,
criticizing his premiership shows that, you know, his authority has effectively gone. Discipline has broken down, you have a divided party.
Now, bear in mind that the public polls are also showing that Labour then lead, that all this rule breaking during COVID has cut through and it's
going to be devastating to Boris at the polls. A lot of people were making a calculation that look the brand, the Tory brand, at the moment is
tainted, how do we get over that? We get over that by removing him and we neutralize a problem.
If I was Labour, I will be thinking, careful what you wish for here. You want Boris Johnson to survive, to survive, but damaged.
QUEST: And also, I mean, which I think is appropriate to just mention, the Prime Minister had to apologize didn't he, to Her Majesty the Queen, for
the party that took place, the leaving party that took place at Number 10 on the eve of course of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.
KENNINGHAM: Yes, of course, I mean the issue for Boris there is that this wasn't just a one-off. This was a catalogue of events which suggested --
which suggests a systematic path pattern of rule breaking, which makes it even harder to defend.
And, you know, a lot of people, he speaks for a lot of MPs and I think they think the environment would, would have been would be a lot more forgiving
if at the start, he'd held his hands out and say, look, yes, we got this wrong. We broke the law. I am really sorry, but what's made it worse has
been a cover up and the half-truths afterwards.
QUEST: So let's put it bluntly, though, isn't -- are Tory MPs now against exactly the qualities that they all loved about Boris Johnson, when he was
driving them towards Brexit and electoral victory, and that swashbuckling, daredevil, winner-takes-all mentality has now become a liability for them.
KENNINGHAM: Well, yes, I mean, let's look at this in reality, Tory Party, the Tory backbenchers, the MPs were never in love with Boris Johnson. It
was a very transactional relationship, in a context of the backdrop of a Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party in which they saw he could secure their seats
and romp home. He delivered that.
But you know, a lot has changed in three years, you've got a new Labour leader now. Boris has had three -- almost three years in power, which there
have been a non-steady pace, and they're also looking at the polling now. And they're saying, well, the polling is showing, you're going to lose me
my marginal seat, therefore, I'm not going to vote for you.
The polling is showing that the breaking of the lockdown rules which he brought in, his country is the public, and they are not going to forget
about it, and it's going to be devastating at the polls.
So yes, there is no -- I mean, once again, I don't think there was any enduring love for him. It was a very transactional relationship and they're
looking at that transaction saying, "You know what? You served your purpose, but actually, now, you might well cost me my seat in the next
elections." Hard for someone else to come to the floor.
QUEST: I think you just summed it up, Giles, in that view of have served your purpose, it is time.
All right, sir, thank you, Giles Kenningham joining me there.
Let me just tell you what we expect to happen over the next -- so we've got -- it is quarter past eight. In about another 25 to 30 minutes from now,
the MPs, the Tory MPs will gather in the Committee room over in Westminster behind me.
After that, at nine o'clock, 45 minutes from now, Sir Graham Brady, the head of the Committee, the Chairman of the Committee will reveal the
Now look, if Boris Johnson -- if Boris Johnson actually loses the vote, then it will be a political earthquake of monumental proportions. If he
ekes out a small victory, really interesting to know what happens then. A larger victory becomes even more tricky. We'll talk about the implications
and what it means after the break.
This is CNN. Good evening to you.
QUEST: Welcome back.
It's an historic night here at Westminster in London.
Members of Boris Johnson's party are gathering in a matter of minutes, and some have chosen to publicly come out against the Prime Minister, despite
the vote being private.
Jeremy Hunt, for instance, tweeted that he is voting for change. He is arguably the most senior and prominent conservative to actually speak out,
saying he'll be voting for change. Of course, he'd also be voting to take over if we were looking for a vote to take over if Johnson falls.
John Penrose resigned today as the Anti-Corruption Czar saying Boris Johnson broke the rules and that he will vote against him.
Joining me is Paul Scully, Conservative Member of Parliament. You are a Government Minister for Small Business. So you are on that quaintly phrase,
you're on the government payroll vote.
PAUL SCULLY, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Payroll vote, so I have to drive it.
QUEST: So I mean, on an issue like this, you have to vote for the Prime Minister?
SCULLY: Well, I mean, I have voted for the Prime Minister, let's start with that position, but it's a secret ballot. But nonetheless, clearly, if
I didn't believe in the Prime Minister, there is no way I could be tenable as to remain as a Minister.
So as a matter of principle, I would clearly resign, but that's not with this issue. I'm supportive of the government. I'm supporting the Prime
QUEST: Why did you support him? The man is believed to be either a liar, or a charlatan, or at best, has a strange relationship with the truth?
SCULLY: No. I think the Prime Minister has first of all governed well, in terms of all the big decisions that we've had to make over the last couple
of years. He is a brazen kind of guy, which you have to be to get things done over the stasis that we had since actually, we were last here on the
green, talking about Brexit, stasis that we had in Parliament for nearly two years.
He was the guy that got Brexit over the line and broke that deadlock. He then as we moved into COVID, managed to roll out the vaccination program
and is now leading, you know, amongst the leaders of the world's response against the war in Ukraine.
QUEST: But the partygate left a stench. It left a feeling in the people that it was unfair. Good example, of course, Dominic Cummings, with his
nonsense about going off to the castle to test his eyesight, and everybody else's -- and Johnson didn't fire him. Johnson didn't fire him. He kept
And there's been a feeling that there's one rule for Number 10 people and one rule for the rest of the country.
SCULLY: Yes, I mean, look, the Prime Minister is loyal. He was loyal to Dominic Cummings. I think Dominic Cummings has clearly let him down and he
is fueling a lot of the unrest against the Prime Minister that has led to this.
But you're right, actually, there was a culture in Number 10 that the Prime Minister regrets, I certainly regret, I get angry about when I read the Sue
Gray report and read the full detail about how some of the staff that -- there's hundreds -- a thousand odd staff in Number 10 in the Cabinet
Office, how they behaved and so first of all, the Prime Minister was right to apologize as the leader, he wouldn't have said that all. He wouldn't
have known everything that is going on.
QUEST: He apologized. First of all, he weaseled it with lots of -- it was a work event, then he got rounded this way. Then I was only there for five
minutes, then it was only this. He never actually said, do you know something? You're right. We had parties. It was wrong. I'm sorry.
SCULLY: Because I think the thing is, he would not have known all of the detail of what was going on because you sit there thinking he works in the
building and he lives next door, okay, it is not like living in a flat and thumping on the wall, saying can you keep the sound down? It just doesn't
work like that.
So you wouldn't have known everything that went on until Sue Gray came out, which is why he has apologized, which is why he has changed a lot of the
stuff in Number 10 to change the culture.
QUEST: So he's going to win tonight because there's at least 160 of you who are on the government payroll. So, he wins tonight. But how do you
handle this view, whether it be John Major, whether it be any of -- Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May -- once you've had this vote, you're damaged
goods and it's only a matter of time with a with an egg timer.
SCULLY: There is only one way you can deal with that and that is to deliver. We've got the massive inflationary pressures, we've got supply
pressures, we got a tight labor market, people are struggling at the moment, and we need to respond to that, we need to deliver, we need to
deliver on our Manifesto, deliver on our promises in that Manifesto so that people can actually say, "Yes, I gave you an 80-seat majority in 2019, and
this is as a result of it, come the next general election in two years' time."
QUEST: But let's take the by-elections coming up. Now, one at Wakefield, of course, is a good example. I mean, if that goes badly for you, then the
whole leveling up this idea of a new blue wall, this idea of the Tories are back in the North for the first time, if ever, then that falls apart.
SCULLY: No, it doesn't fall apart, but it is midterm. You see, we are in midterm election. But how does that -- a midterm election is a bit weird.
We're actually literally only four percent behind in the polls at the moment. The poll that came out today, despite everything that is going on
at the moment, we are four percent behind Labour.
Labour clearly needs to be at 10 percent or more to be forming that majority. So it's not going to be easy for us. I'm not saying it's going to
be easy for us at all. But you know, there is this gravitational pull that people want Boris to deliver.
QUEST: What's the one thing now that besides -- get away from the political, it's time to deliver, which I understand. I understand and
that's true, that's your Manifesto.
But as an MP, as a member of the party, forget, you're a government minister, what's the one thing you want to see Boris Johnson now do
personally, him, the man, the way he leads?
SCULLY: I want him to continue the change that he's made in Number 10. So that actually, there's a clear sense of communication between Number 10 and
the parliamentary party over there, and Number 10, and the members, the ordinary members and the councilors up and down the country.
But then I want him to actually demonstrate over the next week or two, to actually say this is the plan that I've got for the cost of living. This is
what I've got -- the plan that I've got for growing the economy, for getting us out of an overheated housing market, especially in London and
QUEST: You're the Minister for Small Business, so it is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I just want to very quickly --
QUEST: I mean, small businesses are going to be clobbered in this country, like it is elsewhere. I'm not saying it's unique to Britain. There's not
much you can do with it. You're heading for a recession.
SCULLY: I think we are going to be, you know, it's going to be really difficult over the next year. But I think if you look at the predictions,
the forecasts that we are actually due in the following year to come out quite well in terms of the G-7, in comparison to the G-7.
But we've got to knuckle down and actually remain confident about the fundamentals of the U.K. economy, which I still believe are good, but that
will only work if we actually, as I say deliver on that plan for growing the economy rather than being doom and gloom and worrying about the bubble
QUEST: Minister, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
And so in 10 minutes, the MPs, the Tory MPs -- let me just make this clear. We're talking about Tory MPs here. This is Boris Johnson's own Members of
The Labour and everybody else is an element of Schadenfreude, watching and then pretzel themselves into something, trying to avoid oblivion.
Anyway, they'll be arriving for the result of the no-confidence vote. We'll cover.
Good evening to you. CNN in London.
QUEST: As the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waited for the confidence vote he spoke to President Zelenskyy. He's getting an update on
the war in Ukraine. Now the call came after Russia struck the capital city Kyiv though with missiles. Now, it's the first time in more than a month
that Kyiv has been hit in such a way as Russian and Ukrainian troops continue to battle street by street for control of the industrial city of
Severodonetsk. The last Ukraine-control city in Luhansk. Ben Wedeman is in Kramatorsk which is in Ukraine.
Ben, just give us an idea of where you are vis-a-vis the sort of dispute -- and where the fighting is now so we can position you.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're about an hour and a half's drive from Severodonetsk, just that way. And I've been there
many times back in April when I was here and even back then it was being pounded by Russian artillery. And what we've seen, certainly in the last
few weeks is this has become the epicenter, Severodonetsk of Russia's military operations in Ukraine.
They are according to Ukrainian officials, sparing no men or material to retake or rather to take that city. And at the end of last week, Richard,
the even the Ukrainians were conceding that the Russians controlled about 80 percent of that city. As of the weekend apparently the Ukrainians
launched a counter attack retook some territory. But this morning Monday morning, we heard that the Russians were back on the offensive.
And we're pushing back the Ukrainians now, overnight, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise, obviously top secret visit to the town of
Lysychansk, which overlooks Severodonetsk. Very much within range of Russian artillery. And his visit really emphasizes the importance this
country gives to holding on to that city. However, the Ukrainians are quick to say that without more assistance, and particularly better, long-range
missiles and artillery from the west which the U.K. and the U.S. have promised, they will not be able to hold on to Severodonetsk much longer.
We heard this morning that the U.K. like the U.S. is going to provide these long range weapons. But Ukrainian troops will have to be trained and then
those weapons are going to have to get all the way here. And that may be too late. Richard?
QUEST: You see, that was -- that's exactly where I wanted to go because I heard this morning about the U.K. And the longer range missiles same sort
of agreement can't be used again, to attack within Russia. But that the training of the Ukrainians will be done either in the U.K. or out of
country and they're talking weeks. Now this could be a case of well, a day late and a dollar short by the time it all gets there and get sorted.
WEDEMAN: Yes. And this is the problem. And, you know, from almost the beginning of the conflict, particularly the President Zelenskyy has urged
the -- for the rapid delivery of weapon systems. But this is this situation here. It's not a surprise. I was here in April, and it was clear that the
Russians were redirecting their resources, their men, their equipment, to this part of the country to try to gain total control of Donetsk and
The two provinces that comprise the Donbas region. And it appears that perhaps it may be too late that to get these weapons in place and time is
of the essence, Richard?
QUEST: Ben Wedeman, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. It's a summer evening. It's not that warm, late spring evening here in London. It's not that warm,
but it's not raining, which is a blessing in its own right. And in the next 10 minutes or so, the members of the Tory Party, the members of Parliament
of the Tory Party will gather. They will be hearing the results of the confidence vote into Boris Johnson. That's coming up.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
QUEST: On the breaking news. Conservative members of Parliament at the moment gathering in the committee room Westminster behind me where they
will hear the results of the vote of no confidence that they have just taken in Boris Johnson or a vote of confidence if you'd like. It's the rank
and file of the party. The members of Parliament that have been tested, they are the ones that have to say.
Boris Johnson spent all day trying to win his own M.P.s over. All he needs is a simple majority of 180 for the prime minister to stay in power. It is
180 votes and he basically stays. The implications of that vote is with me is Quentin Peel who joins me now here at Westminster, who is the associate
fellow at Chatham House. Good to see you, sir.
QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: Hi, Rich.
QUEST: What do you make of it?
PEEL: Well, I think he's going to survive badly and they will be very badly damaged by this whole affair.
QUEST: What's a bad number in your view?
PEEL: I think anything more than 100 votes against him is actually not looking 100.
QUEST: A hundred. Do you think that was many?
PEEL: Yes. I think that would -- that would look pretty bad because it would show that a really substantial chunk of his own party have lost faith
in him. And I think they're reflecting what they're hearing on the ground which is that there's a real backlash against the man who used to walk on
QUEST: Why is this? I mean, what has he in -- what has he done wrong? Everybody knew he was a bit of a lad and a chance, sir.
PEEL: Yes. But I think that he's just gone on being in denial of when he's actually misbehaved. And it's just played with COVID in the background.
It's just played much worse than it would normally. So, he's really -- in a funny way, for a man who was so in touch with his electorate, he's no
longer really in touch.
QUEST: He could have saved this, couldn't he? If he'd said, I'm really sorry. But all that nonsense about there -- well, it was a work event and
it was choosing wine. And we didn't really do this and only stayed for five minutes. And there's only a birthday cake for a minute or two.
PEEL: I think he seriously has never actually recognized that he did wrong. He doesn't realize that. And he doesn't therefore understand this backlash,
this loss of trust, and losing trust, when you're in a position like that is actually fatal. His own people have lost trust in him.
QUEST: But the other problem, of course, is, if you look back at Boris Johnson, even in Brussels, which you will --
PEEL: I remember it.
QUEST: You remember. He was a -- he was a Europhile. For the longest time this was a man who was Europhile.
PEEL: Well, up to a point, but he actually -- he didn't care what he wrote, as long as it was on the front page. And this is the man -- this is why you
shouldn't make a journalist prime minister. I mean, it's fatal. All he wants to be is the man who's got his byline on the front page.
QUEST: And then he switched sides -- not switch sides but he became ambiguous over Brexit until he saw the way it was going. And he wrote the
PEEL: Absolutely, yes.
QUEST: And the claims of 300 million a week or whatever it was that -- on the National Health Service.
PEEL: Yes. And he basically played it very cleverly, in order to become prime minister. And the one person who I suspect may be rather enjoying his
dilemma today is the person who replaced his Prime Minister Theresa May.
QUEST: She -- there was never any question of her integrity.
QUEST: With Theresa May.
PEEL: That's right.
QUEST: The vote of confidence wherever her competence.
PEEL: She was dull. But she was straight. And I think people are now saying, that's what we need to win back the trust of the electorate. I
mean, in one way, Boris Johnson is still a very lucky man. This is happening before two local elections, which again to see his party very
badly punished by voters in two weeks time.
QUEST: What are they being punished for? Accepting the -- I mean, Paul Scully, the MP minister who was here minutes ago said, well, it's midterm
and we always, you know, there's always (INAUDIBLE) and there's a certain truth in that, but what are they punishing them for?
PEEL: Well, the cost of living crisis is obviously huge. And I think people feel that Boris Johnson with his sense of privilege, and his fellow members
of the Cabinet, don't really get how people are feeling the pinch.
QUEST: Very difficult. Let's take the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, whose family wealth is in the 10s, if not hundreds of millions. And
there have been some very serious, not allegations, but just weirdness.
PEEL: Yes. The -- I mean, he just doesn't seem to be in touch, which is why I don't think he's any longer a really serious candidate to replace
Johnson. If as I suspect right, Johnson will go before the end of the year.
QUEST: Oh, you think it's that soon?
PEEL: I think so. Yes.
QUEST: Now, how does that happen? So, let's say he wins tonight and he wins but, you know, does he say 80 to 110 against him? So what happens after
PEEL: Well, I think that it starts a process of continual complaints from the back benches against him, rebellions on the back benches. And although
QUEST: But he can't be -- he can't be challenged again.
PEEL: Well, the rules say he can't be challenged again. But this is politics. This is not regulations. They can change those rules and hold
another vote. Everybody seems to think that actually is malleable. They can do it. Yes.
QUEST: Really, they can -- they can do it.
PEEL: They could change the rules of this 1922 committee that represents all the Conservative members, if there's a real backlash against him, and
they don't believe he's going to be the winner that he was, then I think they'll find a way of moving it.
QUEST: Right. And if he goes -- if he goes who takes over?
PEEL: Well, that's the key question which is one reason also that he's lucky there's no obvious successor. I mean, there's Liz Truss who would
love the job. A lot of people think she's not really up to it. There's Jeremy Hunt, former foreign secretary, health secretary.
QUEST: Who's had several goes at it.
PEEL: Safe pair of hands.
PEEL: And there's Rishi Sunak, who, as you said, is such a wealthy finance minister that he doesn't really relate to. So, who is there to replace
Boris Johnson? They're in a terrible dilemma.
QUEST: I remember what you said, by the end of the year -- end of the year. Good to see you as always. Thank you, sir.
QUEST: Now, there's no shortage of possible successors hoping to replace. We've just gone through some of the names. If he loses the vote, it will
essentially be the start of the race to pick the next conservative leader and thereby prime minister. Here's a look at the jockeys, if you will, for
the top stop. Some of the names are very familiar. There's the chancellor, we were just saying Rishi Sunak but he has problems with family money.
The Foreign Secretary Liz Truss not the most exciting of people, arguably, and some say that not really quite up to it. Then you've got Jeremy Hunt,
Tom Tugendhat, there's a name of great political history and story in Britain, and plenty more and as well.
Now the opposition leader Kier Starmer said it's only a matter of time before Boris Johnson is replaced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIER STARMER, BRITISH LABOR PARTY LEADER: I think history tells us that this is the beginning of the end. If you look at the previous examples of
no confidence votes, even when conservative prime ministers survived those and he might survive it tonight. The damage is already done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: The anchor is with me from Downing Street. Bianca, am I being too previous, a little premature in starting to speculate on replacements? You
know, that he could win this, and he could win it reasonably be. Not acquainted doesn't think he will but -- and others don't. But he could.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's possible, but M.P.s within that building behind you will be undergoing the same speculation about who will
replace the prime minister. It's the only responsible thing to do when the prime minister's career that's in dire jeopardy, which is seems to be
tonight. And all those runners and riders that you just mentioned, the striking feature is that it's not clear whatsoever which one of them would
be able to garner even a medium amount of support.
Because it's not clear tonight, where the main attack on Boris Johnson will come from, it's not coming predominately from the right wing or from the
progressive side. It's coming throughout the party for completely different reasons to do with -- whether it's loss of trust, integrity, the way that
he manages the government. We heard from one of his M.P.s this morning, who had supported him throughout his mayoral career and prime ministerial
career who said he's trying to import parts of the presidential system and just change all the rules that he doesn't like.
The reasons are so different. So, in the same way that we can't predict exactly what will be the downfall of Boris Johnson and the main reasons for
doing so we can't predict who the next leader would be if he isn't successful this evening.
QUEST: OK. So, in this scenario, I was interested, Quentin Peel thinks 80 to 100 could be an -- a number against Boris Johnson. What do you think in
terms of what you will be looking for?
NOBILO: As I said to you earlier, it's interesting how the picture has changed throughout the day. This morning, there weren't really many people
who believe that Boris Johnson wouldn't survive this vote. And that's largely because you have 160 M.P.s who are involved with the government on
the payroll that would be expected to vote for the prime minister. Also, Theresa May was deeply unpopular at the time that a confidence vote in her
She got 63 percent of the vote and managed to stagger on. So it's very difficult for a prime minister to actually lose a confidence vote. And even
though strictly speaking, they might win. Obviously, it inflicts so much political damage that their careers are largely over in a matter of months.
Anyway, it's now much harder to predict because we've had more resignations, more people declaring that they voted against the prime
minister that I've known for years and watch their careers and did not expect.
These have been people in support of the prime minister from the right wing of the party that tend to be a lot more sympathetic towards him. I think
Quentin's right and that if there's any more than 100 votes against the prime minister it damages him still, because the only opportunity in today
for Boris Johnson from positive perspective would be essentially to communicate OK, then, put your money where your mouth is.
And maybe less people vote against the prime minister than the picture that is painted in the media and in political circles would suggest. But I think
it's so unlikely, so basically, any outcome now is just going to add another blow to already extremely beleaguered political caucus.
QUEST: Bianca, stay with me please in Downing Street. Isa is here. Isa, we call this place where we are Abingdon Green where the -- I think we get the
message that the people behind is one --
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You what they feel.
QUEST: Yes (INAUDIBLE)
SOARES: The message is clear.
QUEST: Right. But you've been trolling the green. What are people saying?
SOARES: Well, the majority of people think that he won't go. Those I've been speaking to the numbers he -- there will be many M.P.s voting for him
but he won't be enough to unseat him yet. Is there going to be convincing when (INAUDIBLE) and saying no. So what does this become then? How many
months are we looking that you will have to battle? But also the internal battle. The political -- will this turn into a political battle within the
Tory Party? Because that can get very nasty.
QUEST: All right. Question to both Isa and you, Bianca. Isa, first, the inevitability that Johnson is toast by Christmas.
SOARES: He's a political chameleon I say, no, he won't, he'll still be here.
QUEST: (INAUDIBLE) Christmas.
NOBILO: I don't see that as being possible because he's no longer Teflon. And with each scandal, he's politically bruised and damaged, he's no longer
able to get off scot free. So I don't think he's got many more lives left. In fact, an M.P. who used to support him ardently was talking to me this
morning and said he was the cat with nine lives. We're now on the last one. It can't be long. And I think he's putting it well.
QUEST: So, Bianca, we're getting to the point now, I'm just looking at my (INAUDIBLE) I was looking at my watch to see what time it is. I've only got
SOARES: Ten to 9:00. So less than nine minutes or so to.
QUEST: (INAUDIBLE) Bianca, you've studied, watched and been part of the British political cognoscenti for some years. Is this the Tory Party, the
fracture side of which they are so well known?
NOBILO: Oh, inducibly. But what's interesting is I've had two conservative M.P.s say to me, we deserve a spell in opposition now. I mean, can you
imagine that? And for our viewers around the world or our viewers in America, the idea of the Democrats saying, you know what, the Republicans
need to take over for a bit because we are in such a mess. I think that really does it.
QUEST: Right. But on that point, Isa, I was -- I was very -- it was very -- it was very telling that -- we're looking at live pictures. Just to let me
tell you, we're looking at live pictures from inside the room. All right. I can avoid it no longer to explain why it's called the 1922 Committee. It is
a committee of backbenchers, not from benches. And I'm sure Bianca, I think -- I'm sure, Bianca, you would like to explain the reasoning where the --
where the known 1922 backbench committee comes from?
NOBILO: Yes, I was -- sorry. I was just checking a text from an M.P. that was just outside the room. The party interestingly enough, you asked about
the committee, I believe the committee was formed the year after 1922. I think it was officially formed in 1923. I remember someone telling me that
anecdote. But it is a committee of backbenchers who have no affiliation with the government three ministerial roles in order for them to exert
power over the party.
And they are the ones charged with the ability to hold the competence vote and the chairman of the 1922 committee Graham Brady is the only person in
the world that knows how many letters are held against the prime minister who can trigger what we're seeing today, which is a vote of no confidence
if 15 percent of the parliamentary Conservative Party right in saying we no longer have confidence in our leader.
QUEST: You're right. And it wasn't. It was 1923. It was after the 1922 election. And of course, they ousted a government and interestingly, it
wasn't the new, it wasn't the old M.P.s from 1922. It was the new intake in 1923 that formed this backbench committee which has since been -- I was
when Mr. Marcus Fox was who was head of the 1922 and we always describe it in that journalistic sub required of shorthand, the influential 1922
SOARES: You learn something everyday, bet you, Richard. And we are expecting and correct me if I'm wrong Bianca, we are expecting to get a
readout of the mode from Sir Graham Brady and we're expecting -- I suspect anytime lineup from nine -- from 9:00. So, six minutes or so but
interesting that what Bianca was saying earlier was that beginning at the top -- at the beginning of the day, Bianca, you got a sense that perhaps he
could perhaps survive this, the tone you're saying has shifted somewhat throughout the day.
But what I mentioned to Richard and I would love to get your thoughts on this, Bianca, is whether, you know, when Theresa May -- when there was a
vote of no confidence against Theresa May, you know, I remember quite well the three of us were sitting outside.
SOARES: Well, in this area, just on the other side, and you can tell it's very much palpable. There's a moment of crisis. Are you feeling that this
NOBILO: Yes, it is hard to tell though --
QUEST: Oh, here we go.
NOBILO: -- because it has a feeling of a hall of mirrors about it. I think we're getting a result. Are we, Richard? No, everybody's still seems to be
SOARES: No, this is the music behind us. So Pardon us? Pardon --
SOARES: Go ahead, Bianca.
NOBILO: It's very difficult to tell in moments of crisis like this, because it is an echo chamber, and you get a very distorted view of who's saying
what. It feels the same in many ways as to when Theresa May was fencing confidence vote because the party is in turmoil. Nobody looks good in this,
whether you want to get rid of Boris Johnson or retain him as leader, it's airing the dirty laundry of the party.
It is Conservative M.P. against conservative M.P. essentially. And it isn't a good look, it's not good for the brand, it drags the party through the
mud. And it isn't a good way to do things. It's stabbing in the back. And it's messy, as opposed to a leader stepping down and resigning. And then
another one being appointed through a leadership contest. So, we are feeling that same sense of crisis from the Conservative Party because
indeed, they're in one.
And there's been a lot of chatter and M.P.s talking to me about the longer term damage that they feel Boris Johnson may have done to trust in
politics, trust in them as M.P.s, changes to the ministerial code, the expectations and standards of people in government and how they behave. So,
it's much bigger than just the issue of Boris Johnson's can he -- will he stay or will he go.
And it's interesting seeing the House of Commons behind you, under construction, looking a bit of a mess. It sort of reflects what's going on
inside because there is struggle over the identity of the party and over what government should be and how much power it should have. And it's an
interesting allegory for what we're seeing inside.
QUEST: So, Bianca, let me just explain to the viewers who may just be joining us what we are experiencing. Never (INAUDIBLE) there's a freedom of
speech in Britain. So, the people who are shouting Boris out over there have now moved over there where they're playing Bay City Rollers Bye Bye
Baby. And it's great (INAUDIBLE) I know, you can hear us but just in case, you're wondering why --
SOARES: They're not drowning us out --
QUEST: Yes. Well, I'm certainly in a disco. Isa Soares with three minutes at the top of the hour. So Graham Brady will come in and start giving the
results and then we find out just the number of the majority.
SOARES: And just for our viewers who are just joining us, the number we're looking for is 180. That is the key vote, the key number of course,
anywhere like you hadn't previous guest anywhere over 100 or 120 becomes incredibly damaging and currently hard for him to govern. And I think that
is the moment. It is an incredibly important moment for this prime minister who has now really been counted what, 59 days less than Theresa May went
And here we are yet again. But that is the number that we'll be looking to hear from Graham Brady or whether Boris Johnson can continue.
QUEST: If you accept that there were 54 letters.
QUEST: OK. so there are 54 letters, so you know, you're going to get 54 against them to start with, you're looking at any number above 54 to where
you then get to over 100 to where you get to a third or two-thirds. And that point, you have to start wondering his survivability.
SOARES: Exactly. And this is an anonymous vote as well. If you're just -- if you're just joining. Anonymous vote one person, one M.P. may tell us
right here on the screen does not mean that's the way they will vote. And that is important as well to note too. No real sense for us to know how
people will vote but as a critical juncture here for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has faced many obstacles, he's known -- been known as a TfL
Tories because he survived time and time again.
Bianca saying he's running out of lives. The ninth life is coming to an end. So this is the juncture we're coming to, we're what, two, three
minutes away or so from finding out whether the Tory M.P.s back Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
QUEST: Yes. We're awaiting and the result. We're hoping it will be done on time. You never know. I mean, I guess the Graham Brady realizes everybody's
watching him tonight. This is the future of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his premiership, the British government, which of course is at a
crucial time where the war in Ukraine and the support for the Ukrainian government adding to the difficulties of inflation, food crisis, raising
prices, you're left with the prime minister well and truly on the ropes which is why this evening is premiership is in doubt and the future of