BORIS Johnson has SURVIVED tonight’s crucial leadership vote but emerges badly bruised after suffering a meaty rebellion.
While the PM avoided being evicted in a brutal mutiny, he only won by a slim majority of 211 to 148 Tory MPs choosing to stick with him.
His 59 per cent support margin is much worse than what doomed Theresa May achieved just months before she fell on her sword.
It also falls short of Maggie Thatcher and John Major’s numbers in the dying days of their governments.
And two in five of his MPs voted to chuck him just hours after he pleaded with them for unite under his leadership.
The scale of the revolt leaves him wounded and will keep speculation swirling that he could throw in the towel.
One senior Tory told the Sun: “That is a catastrophic result for Boris.”
Another added: “He must listen to the sheer scale of the rebellion and go now. for the sake of the country.”
Ahead of tonight’s secret ballot allies insisted that winning by even a single vote would be chalked up as a victory.
Cabinet loyalists were quick out of the blocks to form a protective ring around their embattled boss tonight.
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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted “the Prime Minster won handsomely”, while Rishi Sunak said “now it’s time to move forward”.
Current party rules mean Mr Johnson is safe from a fresh challenge for another year, although there has been suggestion this could change.
Mr Johnson and his top team have spent the past 12 hours begging wavering MPs to back him rather than joining the “foolish” revolt.
In a last-gasp push for every vote, the PM had told Tory backbenchers that ousting him risked paving the way to a “utterly disastrous” Labour takeover.
He added: “You all know what an incredible force we can be when we are united.
“The people in this room won the biggest electoral victory for the Conservatives for 40 years – under my leadership.”
Urging MPs to row in behind his leadership, he took aim at “foolish” rebels stoking “pointless” party infighting.
But the leadership drama has sparked a brutal Tory civil war as MPs divided into sparring camps and blue-on-blue attacks erupted.
Ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt became the most high profile rebel to stick the knife in as he urged colleagues to ditch BoJo.
In a stinging Twitter thread he blasted: “Anyone who believes our country is stronger, fairer & more prosperous when led by Conservatives should reflect that the consequence of not changing will be to hand the country to others who do not share those values.
“Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.”
His searing intervention sparked a furious bust-up as BoJo loyalist Nadine Dorries let rip at Mr Hunt – saying his stewardship of the NHS left us more vulnerable to Covid.
Former finance minister Jesse Norman also broke cover as the latest Tory MP to join the rebellion.
And John Penrose resigned as a government anti-corruption tsar, branding the confidence vote “the beginning of the end”.
Loyalists quickly formed a protective ring around the PM by declaring their support in tonight’s vote.
Jittery MPs fear the PM is not the electoral superstar who won a landslide in 2019 and worry they will lose their seats if he leads the party into the next election.
Shock polls putting the Tories on course to lose two crunch byelections later this month have fanned fears.
A brutal briefing being shared warns the PM “is no longer an electoral asset and, if left in post, will lead the Party to a substantial defeat in 2024”.
They fear 160 Tory MPs could lose their seats with Boris still in No10 turning a “defeat into a landslide”.
“MPs are having to defend the indefensible, not for the sake of the party, but for one man.”
Mr Johnson has apologised for Partygate and begged the nation to move on so he can focus on the cost of living crisis and Ukraine.
Sir Keir Starmer said: “Conservative MPs made their choice tonight.
“They have ignored the British public and hitched themselves and their party firmly to Boris Johnson and all he represents.”