Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described his 211-148 margin of victory in Monday’s no-confidence vote as “decisive” and “conclusive,” but it is neither. In 1990 Margaret Thatcher won by a similar margin (204-152), yet the opposition from within the Conservative ranks was enough to force her to stand down. In 2018 Theresa May won by a wider margin (200-117), only to resign six months later. History suggests that Monday’s vote leaves Mr. Johnson mortally wounded. Yet these are unusual times, and he is an exceptional politician.
The vote was not about Mr. Johnson’s policies, disarrayed and unpopular though they are. It was about his greatest strength and weakness—his outsize personality—and his government’s handling of an unprecedented challenge, the Covid-19 pandemic. Its economic hangover shows little sign of abating, and the mood in the U.K., as in other Western democracies, is bitter. The bureaucrats who devised the lockdowns and masking rituals are beyond the public’s wrath, but the elected leaders who took their advice are vulnerable. As President Biden may find in November, Mr. Johnson’s humbling is a foretaste of voters’ revenge.