UK's Boris Johnson reasserts leadership

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tried to shore up his leadership by setting out a raft of new policies to ministers, after he narrowly survived a confidence vote that revealed the scale of the threat to his position.

Johnson won the ballot of Conservative Party MPs on Monday evening by 211 votes to 148 - enough to avoid having to resign but a larger than anticipated rebellion within his party that leaves him wounded and battling to win back the confidence of his colleagues and the general public.

His first challenge is to convince his most senior allies, some of whom would have been likely to run to replace him if he had been forced out, that he will be able to move on from questions about his leadership.

Johnson thanked cabinet ministers for their support as he urged them to push through reforms to lower costs for consumers, businesses and government.

"We're able now to draw a line under the issues that our opponents want to talk about, and we're able to get on with talking about what I think the people in this country want us to," Johnson told his cabinet in televised remarks.

MPs in Johnson's party called the confidence vote after months of scandal over lockdown-breaking parties at the heart of government and criticism of his response to an inflation-fuelled surge in the cost of living.

At issue is Johnson's integrity. His opponents accuse him of being a habitual liar and he faces an investigation into whether he misled parliament in his explanations over the series of parties held in Downing Street - his office and residence - while Britons were following strict lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police have fined him over one such gathering.

William Hague, who led the Conservative Party from 1997 to 2001, said Johnson's premiership is no longer "viable" and he should "turn his mind to getting out" to provide a fresh start for the party.

The front pages of British newspapers offered little comfort that the vote was a decisive result as Johnson described it in the aftermath on Monday.

The Daily Telegraph called the result a "hollow victory. The Sun tabloid declared "PM survives ... Just"

Calling the result a "pyrrhic victory", the Times leader column said the narrow win left Johnson's political authority badly dented and his party even more divided.

"If Mr Johnson is to avoid leading the Tories (Conservatives) 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," it said.

Conservative Party rules mean he is safe from another confidence vote for the next 12 months, but those rules could technically be changed if there is enough political will to do so.

In 2018, Johnson's predecessor Theresa May won a larger percentage of a similar confidence vote only to resign six months later.

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