It was preceded by months of anticipation. But in the end, the vote of no confidence in the PM passed in a flash. So what does it now mean for Boris Johnson? NOAH VICKERS reports on a day of high drama

The prime minister secured the backing of his MPs by 211 votes to 148, but whether it will be enough to secure his long-term future remains to be seen.

He has emerged from the non-confidence vote as a badly wounded PM, with a proportionately worse victory than was secured by Theresa May in 2018. She survived that vote, but still found herself having to resign just six months later.

Hopes remain high among opposition MPs that the Conservatives will lose by-elections in both Wakefield and Tiverton on June 23.

If that happens, it would be the first time in more than 30 years that a governing party loses two by-elections on the same night.

If Tiverton is lost to the Lib Dems, and Wakefield to Labour, it would suggest both sides of the Conservatives’ voting coalition - the relatively wealthy rural south, and the post-industrial ‘red wall’ of the midlands and north - being chipped away at.

But without a change to the Conservative party’s rules, Mr Johnson is technically safe from a fresh challenge until June 2023.

One of the features of this ongoing scandal has been the lack of an obvious, declared replacement for Mr Johnson.

Now this blow has been delivered, it could be the time for an opponent to emerge.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has long been touted for that role - but has always been ultra loyal to her boss.

Eastern Daily Press: South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss could become the second Norfolk MP to become prime ministerSouth West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss could become the second Norfolk MP to become prime minister (Image: Archant)

And she was quick to give the PM her backing, once the result came in, tweeting, for the fifth time this year, "I support him 100pc". She added: "Pleased that colleagues have backed the prime minister. Now's the time to get on with the job."

One sign that the mood in his party might be turning against the PM came earlier in the day, in the shape of a comment from science minister George Freeman, the usually loyal MP for Mid Norfolk.

Eastern Daily Press: George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid NorfolkGeorge Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk (Image: Richard Townshend Photography)

The EDP approached all Norfolk and Waveney Conservative MPs to ask how they were planning to vote.

Mr Freeman declined to specifically say either way, commenting instead that "the government will have to take some very grave decisions in the coming months, for which it will be critical to command public trust and confidence”.

He later complained that his refusal to specify whether he was supporting the PM had been subjected to the interpretation of others, and that he simply wished to avoid getting drawn into the "media feeding frenzy".

Before the vote, Chloe Smith, Richard Bacon and James Wild, along with Ms Truss and Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis indicated they would support the PM.

Duncan Baker and Jerome Mayhew both declined to say whether the PM had their backing, before the vote.

Once the result was known, Mr Mayhew was quick to support Mr Johnson. He said: "I am relieved that the vote is now out of the way with the PM winning.

"It’s a secret ballot for a reason: to allow views to be expressed and then for all to get behind the winner. I hope that the PM now gets on with the job of delivering for Norfolk and the country."

Peter Aldous, who was one of the first Tory MPs to submit a letter of no-confidence in the PM, restated his view when contacted before the vote.