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by Alain Tolhurst
13 July 2022
Boris Johnson accused of 'running scared' after blocking Labour's no confidence debate

Alamy

Boris Johnson accused of 'running scared' after blocking Labour's no confidence debate

Boris Johnson has been heavily criticised for refusing to allow parliamentary time for a vote of no confidence in his government to be debated today.

The Prime Minister has been accused of “running scared” by Labour after they tabled the motion in the Commons yesterday.

Convention dictates that the government of the day is expected to provide time for a debate if the official opposition lays down such a motion, which they did in response to Johnson's declaration he intended to stay on as caretaker leader until September.

In practice, the motion was unlikely to pass anyway as it would have required Tory MPs to vote for it, or at least abstain, which could potentially trigger a general election when the party is effectively leaderless and trailing in the polls.

But Labour wanted to put on record where Conservative MPs and leadership contenders stood on Johnson’s continued stay in Downing Street.

Following the announcement the no confidence motion would not be debated in the Commons, a Labour party spokesperson said: “This clapped-out government is running scared.”

They added: “This is totally unprecedented. Yet again the Tories are changing the rules to protect their own dodgy mates.

“All the Tory leadership candidates should denounce this flagrant abuse of power to protect a discredited Prime Minister.”

The Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the decision to break with convention sounded  "more like Donald Trump than a serious British government”.

A government spokesman accused Labour of "playing politics" by tabling the motion when Johnson had already resigned, and that the debate was not "a valuable use of parliamentary time".

"Should Labour amend their motion appropriately, they can have the next business day for it to be debated,” they added. 

According to Erskine May, the bible of parliamentary practice, “by established convention, the government always accedes to the demand from the leader of the opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion tabled by the official opposition which, in the government’s view, would have the effect of testing the confidence of the House”.

Deputy Commons Speaker Nigel Evans suggested such a "test" may be why this motion has not been granted a slot on the order paper.

After Labour MPs raised a series of points of order in the Commons this afternoon criticising the decision, Evans said: ”I can only conclude therefore that the government has concluded the motion as tabled by the official opposition does not have that effect.”

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