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Vote of no confidence in prime minister Theresa May is triggered

PUBLISHED: 09:12 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:58 12 December 2018

Prime minister Theresa May is facing a no confidence vote in her leadership. Photo: PA

Prime minister Theresa May is facing a no confidence vote in her leadership. Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Enough Conservative MPs have requested a vote of confidence in Theresa May to trigger a contest, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady has announced.

Mrs May appeared outside Downing Street to say she would contest the leadership challenge “with everything I’ve got”.

Westminster had been awash with rumours that rebels were on the brink of - or had actually reached - the threshold of 48 letters needed to trigger a vote.

Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson had became the latest MP to declare he had submitted a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

It followed reports of a wave of new letters amid anger at the way Mrs May dramatically put on hold the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal after admitting she was heading for a heavy defeat.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Ian BurtMid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Ian Burt

Speculation that a challenge could be imminent was fuelled after chief whip Julian Smith and Conservative Party chairman and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis were seen leaving No 10 following late-night consultations on Tuesday.

Sir Graham today confirmed the threshold of 15pc of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in Mrs May’s leadership had been exceeded.

He said a ballot would be held between 6pm and 8pm in a House of Commons committee room.

He said the votes would be counted straight afterwards and an announcement made as soon as possible in the evening.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey. Photo: Simon ParkerSuffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey. Photo: Simon Parker

But Mr Lewis, said Mrs May had his support and called on his party to back her, so she could get on with the Brexit negotiations.

He said: “I fully back our prime minister. We have the right leader of our party. We have a duty to deliver for our country and I hope all my colleagues will join me and support Theresa May to deliver for UK.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, chief secretary to the treasury, said: “I fully support the prime minister and believe it would be completely wrong to have a leadership election now. She is the right person to deliver Brexit and has shown herself to be strong and determined.”

Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal said: “I will be supporting Theresa May to continue as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister in today’s vote.”

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James BassGreat Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James Bass

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who represents West Suffolk, said: “I’m voting for the prime minister tonight and urge all colleagues to do the same. We should all be focussed on coming together for the sake of the future of the country.”

Steve Barclay, the recently appointed Brexit secretary and North East Cambridgeshire MP said: “I fully support the PM. This is a crucial stage with weeks to go before we leave the EU. We need to back Theresa May and deliver the referendum result. The PM is working in our national interest and this distraction risks damaging uncertainty.”

George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP yesterday begged fellow Tories not to trigger the no confidence vote. He said: “To any colleagues thinking of signing their letter to Mr Brady to trigger a leadership election, I beg you not to.
“The country would never forgive us. If the PM is out of runway, we should have a caretaker prime minister until a leadership election in May.”

Broadland MP Keith Simpson said he would be voting for Mrs May to remain as leader,

Alex Mayer, Labour MEP for the East of England, branded it as “self-indulgence” by her political opponents. She said: “This is an extraordinary act of self indulgence by the Conservatives who are as ever more concerned about themselves than the fate of the country.

“We don’t need a Tory leadership contest, we need a general election or a People’s Vote on the deal. My colleagues in Brussels and Strasbourg are frankly bewildered. Chaos, confusion and tumult reigns.”

In his letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Paterson said Mrs May’s conduct of the Brexit negotiations had “eroded trust in the Government, to the point where I and many others can no longer take the Prime Minister at her word”.

The former Northern Ireland secretary and prominent Brexiteer said she had become a “blockage” to an agreement which Parliament and the country could support.

“She has repeatedly said ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, but it is clear her objective was to secure a deal at any cost,” he wrote.

In a joint statement, the chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tory backbenchers Jacob Rees-Mogg and his deputy Steve Baker said: “Theresa May’s plan would bring down the Government if carried forward. But our party will rightly not tolerate it.

“Conservatives must now answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”

In his letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Paterson said Mrs May’s conduct of the Brexit negotiations had “eroded trust in the Government, to the point where I and many others can no longer take the Prime Minister at her word”.

The former Northern Ireland secretary and prominent Brexiteer said she had become a “blockage” to an agreement which Parliament and the country could support.

“She has repeatedly said ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, but it is clear her objective was to secure a deal at any cost,” he wrote.

How does a Tory leadership contest work?

Theresa May faces a leadership challenge from Tory MPs after delaying a Commons vote on her Brexit deal.

Here is how a Conservative leadership contest will unfold:

Why will there be a vote?

A threshold of 48 letters of no confidence - 15pc of Tory MPs - has been reached. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, said the threshold had been exceeded.

What happens in the no confidence vote?

Mrs May will need the support of more than 50pc of the 315 Conservative MPs to stay in office, so 158 in total. But even if she wins, if the margin of victory is small her authority may have been fatally wounded.

When will the vote be held?

The ballot is from 6-8pm on Wednesday evening, and the result is announced shortly afterwards.

What if Mrs May loses?

If the PM loses the vote, she would not be able to stand in the subsequent leadership contest arranged by Sir Graham.

How would that work?

Candidates for the leadership must be nominated by two Conservative MPs. If only one candidate comes forward, he or she becomes leader.

If a number of would-be leaders are nominated, the list is whittled down to a shortlist of two in a series of votes by MPs.

The final pair then go to a postal ballot of all party members, with the position of leader - and prime minister - going to the victor.

How long would that take?

Sir Graham would be responsible for overseeing the contest and setting a timetable for the campaign, which would be expected to last around 12 weeks - although those calling for Mrs May to go believe it could be accomplished much quicker.

Mrs May could remain in the post during the campaign period.

Who are the contenders to take over as Tory leader?

Bookmakers have Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab as joint favourites, followed by Michael Gove and Sajid Javed. Although Cabinet colleagues like Mr Javed have voiced support for Mrs May, they could become contenders if she loses the no confidence vote.

The 1922 Committee seems to have a key role, what exactly is it?

Widely known in Westminster as “the ‘22”, the committee of all backbench Conservative MPs meets weekly when the House of Commons is sitting.

Where does the unusual name come from?

The committee takes its name from a meeting of Conservative MPs on October 19 1922. The MPs successfully ended the party’s coalition with the Liberals, bringing down the government of David Lloyd George. The resulting general election was won by the Tories.

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