LONDON – Theresa May has defeated an attempt by Conservative MPs to get rid of her as party leader and prime minister.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the party’s 1922 Committee, announced on Wednesday evening that 200 Conservative MPs voted to support May, while 117 voted against. This gave May a winning margin of 83 votes.
The prime minister told hostile Conservative MPs that she would seeking significant changes to the Brexit deal and stand down before the next election in 2022 in an attempt to win their support.
Scroll down to see how the latest chaotic day in Westminster unfolded.
21:10: MAY WINS! But it’s not a convincing victory…
As expected, Theresa May has won. Here is the result:
For (Theresa May): 200
It’s a win for May.
Importantly, it also means that Conservative MPs cannot challenge her for another 12 months. Now she can focus on Brexit negotiations and getting her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament.
However, this is not, by any means, a comfortable result for the prime minister. Over a third of Conservative MPs have voted to get rid of her. It’s a clear sign of just how many MPs in her own party do not support her, and will only embolden them to keep going in their mission to destroy her Brexit plan.
20:59: A result is imminent
We are expecting an announcement in the next 10-15 minutes. Stay tuned…
The prime minister will make a short speech once we know the result.
20:12: Voting is closed. Big win for May coming?
Voting is closed and we are expecting an announcement at around 9 p.m (GMT).
A source in the European Research Group has told Business Insider’s Adam Payne that just 87 MPs have voted against Theresa May, which would be a pretty sizable win for the prime minister, and much better than some close to her were fearing.
Counting has only just started, and there is probably some expectation going on, so we should take these predictions with a large pinch of salt.
19:45: Voting closes in 15 minutes
Conservative MPs will stop casting their votes at 8 p.m. (GMT).
Multiple sources are predicting a victory for Theresa May – but the margin of victory is currently anyone’s guess.
A comfortable victory would give the prime minister a much-needed boost, but a narrow win would put pressure on her to resign.
19:01: Here’s what the ballot paper looks like
… Sarah Wollaston MP tweeted a picture of it.
We’re not sure if that’s allowed, but whatever.
18:45: May’s opponents don’t trust her resignation promise
The European Research Group’s recent Whatsapp messages have been leaked to Business Insider’s Adam Payne. Here’s what has been said in the last few minutes.
Helen Mayer – a leading member of the StandUp4Brexit campaign – has thanked MPs who have tried to oust May for their work, “whatever the result.”
She has paid tribute to leading Brexiteer Steve Baker, who she says is “a superstar in Parliament with too many political pygmies.”
MPs in the Whatsapp group also paid tribute to chief Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Owen Paterson.
Interestingly, there is some suspicion about May’s promise to quit before the next scheduled election in 2022.
Campaigner Anna Bailey wrote: “How can she say she won’t lead them into the next GE when that election could be anytime, esp with backstop on the table (hence no support from DUP)? It makes no sense whatsoever.”
18:20: Here’s what happened in the 1922 committee meeting
The 1922 Committee meeting of Conservative MPs has just finished. The MPs will now go and cast their ballots in the no confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership.
Here’s what May told the meeting:
- She will stand down as leader and prime minister before the next election, reportedly leaving some ministers in tears.
- She WON’T call another snap general election.
- She is trying to get legal changes to the controversial backstop for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
MPs in the room have reported an “emotional” atmosphere.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and senior MP James Cleverly said there was high levels of support for the prime minister ahead of the confidence vote. However, it wasn’t a totally positive reaction for May. Lee Rowley MP reportedly told her “stamina isn’t a policy” while others demanded a specific date for her resignation.
17:27: ‘This is a delay and a distraction’ — Cleverly
Conservative party chairman James Cleverly is briefing hacks outside the 1922 committee.
He says it was not a “razzmatazz” speech but she emphasised “now is not the time” to change the leader. She told MPs that tonight’s vote is a “delay and distraction,” Cleverly said.
“May said this is not going to be resolved by an election. We are going to deliver Brexit,” he added.
5:23 PM: Here’s the timeline for the next few hours
5:00 PM: May addresses 1922 Committee.
6:00 to 8:00 PM: MPs cast their ballots.
8:00 to 9:30 PM: Graham Brady announces the results of the ballot.
It is possible that all Tory MPs will cast their votes well before the 8:00 pm deadline, meaning the result would be announced earlier.
5:06 PM: THERESA MAY ARRIVES AT 1922 COMMITTEE
Theresa May has arrived at the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs to deliver perhaps the most important political speech of her life.
Her arrival is greeted by the sound of banging desks, the traditional show of support for the prime minister from loyalists.
She could tell MPs that she will stand down before the next general election to try and prevent them ousting her this evening. She may have something else up her sleeve.
4:28 PM: British voters overwhelmingly back May against potential Tory rivals
The British public thinks May should stay, by a margin of 40% to 34%, according to YouGov polling today.
The survey found:
- May retains strong support from her party’s voters, who back her by 58% to 28%.
- 45% of Leave voters that she should remain in place – only 38% want to see her go.
- Labour party voters tend to want to see a change of leadership. 44% back a change, while 30% want May to continue in post.
- Asked whether or not a different Conservative leader would be able to negotiate a better Brexit deal, the majority (57%) of people say no.
4:21 PM: Downing Street restores whip to second Tory MP Charlie Elphicke
Downing Street has restored the whip to a second MP, Charlie Elphicke. He has confirmed that he will vote against the prime minister this evening.
Elphicke was suspended from the Conservative party in November 2017 after “serious allegations” made against him were referred to the police.
He said he was unaware of what the alleged claims were and denied any wrongdoing.
3:49 PM: Downing Street restores whip to MP reprimanded for sexual misconduct
In a sign that perhaps the government isn’t feeling overly confident about the vote later, it has decided to restore the whip for Andrew Griffiths MP, meaning he can partake in the vote.
Griffiths had his whip removed by Conservative party authorities in July for sending 2,000 explicit messages to two women.In the text messages, he demanded explicit pictures and videos, and offered to pay for a flat where they could meet and have sex.
Dawn Butler MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary said: “It is a betrayal of women for the Tories to let an MP who was suspended for sexual harassment back into their party just to allow them to vote for Theresa May in the leadership challenge.”
3:24 PM: The Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated, European Parliament says
In a statement published in the last few minutes, leaders in the European Parliament warn the UK that the Brexit deal is “fair and balanced” and will not be renegotiated.
The Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May is struggling to sell to MPs is “the only deal possible,” the statement says, adding that a recent conference of European Parliament leaders, “stressed that that renegotiating the backstop was not possible since it is the guarantee that in whatever circumstance there could be no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland.”
It adds: “The Conference reiterated that without a backstop Parliament would not give its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Remember, the European Parliament, like the UK Parliament, can veto the deal.
2:50 PM: ERG Conservatives believe the vote will be close
Despite at least half of all Conservative MPs publicly declaring support for Theresa May, members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group believe it will be a close vote.
“It will be close and there are Cabinet ministers who will vote against her,” one ERG source tells Business Insider.
Cabinet members have said they will vote for May. What they decide to do in a secret vote might be different, however…
2:10 PM: May on course for victory
Half of Conservative MPs – 158 – have publicly declared their intention to support in favour of Theresa May’s leadership tonight. 158 or more would mean victory for the prime minister.
There are some important caveats. Firstly, the vote later tonight is secret, and the likelihood is that MPs who have publicly declared support for May will vote against her in private. Secondly, many of these MPs will be “on the payroll,” meaning they have government positions, and were probably going to vote for the prime minister May anyway.
Even when you take these factors into account, May is looking set for victory.
1:34 PM: Gove insists May will win
Speaking to Sky News just now, Environment Secretary Michael Gove insisted that the prime minister “will win and win well” come the confidence vote this evening.
“I have made mistakes in the past but the PM is going to win tonight – I am confident,” he said.
He claimed that an “overwhelming” number of Conservative MPs who had spoken to were planning to back the prime minister.
1:10 PM: May to quit once Brexit talks are done?
The prime minister’s spokesperson just dropped a huge hint that May will quit before the next general election, which is scheduled to take place in 2022.
“This vote isn’t about who leads us into the next general election,” they said.
“It is about whether it is sensible to change leader at this point in Brexit negotiations. She believes it’s her duty to serve as long as her party wants her to.”
There was some chatter in Westminster this morning that May will tell hostile Conservative MPs that she will resign once Article 50 talks are concluded in March 2019.
This could be a deal breaker for some MPs. That’s because if May, as currently expected, wins the confidence vote, Conservative MPs will be unable to launch another confidence vote for 12 months. However, by resigning in March, May will give many Conservative MPs what they ultimately want: a different person leading the party into the next general election.
12:25: May’s supporters are furious with letter senders
Business Insider has been speaking to Conservative MPs inside Parliament’s corridors ahead of Theresa May’s appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions. There is fury among May’s supporters about the behaviour of those who have launched the challenge against her.
“I am so angry about what they have done I cannot tell you,” one Conservative Minister fumed to BI. A backbench MP said: ” I hope the ERG get a kicking and this puts an end to their posturing.”
One minister told BI that May would easily survive the vote. “She will be fine, I have no doubt,” they said. Another MP agreed, telling BI they “don’t think it will be close,” but added that it would be “damaging” to the PM’s already waning authority if over 90 MPs vote against her.
12:16 PM: Corbyn to May: ‘No more excuses, no more running away’
Corbyn tells May to stop “running away” and put her Brexit deal to Parliament immediately.
“The time for dithering and delay is over. the pm has negotiated her deal. She has told us its the best and only deal available. There can be no more excuses, no more running away.
“Put it before Parliament and let’s have the vote. Halt this escalating crisis that is so damaging to the lives of so many people in this country.”
12:08: Corbyn accuses May of ‘appalling behaviour’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Theresa May’s decision to delay the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal and refusal to say when it will take place was “just as contemptuous” as her refusal to publish the legal advice in full.
“The prime minister’s appalling behaviour needs to be held to account,” Corbyn bellowed in PMQs just now.
May accuses Corbyn of using the meaningful vote as a means of creating chaos and the conditions for a general election and a reversal of Brexit.
11:52: It’s PMQs time
If Theresa May didn’t already have enough on her hands, she now has to go head-to-head with Jeremy Corbyn in this week’s edition of Prime Minister’s Questions.
It will be one the most important PMQs of any prime minister’s career, with May fighting for her political life and desperate to convince Tory MPs to vote for her leadership later today.
It will get underway at 12:00 GMT.
11:31: Businesses are ‘tearing their hair out’ at current state of Westminster politics
Responding to the news of a confidence vote in the Conservative leader, Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:
“The last thing businesses needed today was even more uncertainty – and yet politics has managed to deliver on that once again.
“Many business leaders, along with the rest of the country, will be tearing their hair out at the state of Westminster politics at the moment.
“We are edging closer and closer to no-deal as a result of constant can-kicking and internal domestic political strife.
“Politics is politics, and we will have to let this run its course. But whatever the outcome, cool heads must prevail. Ensuring economic stability and certainty in the months ahead should be priority number one for all politicians.”
11:26: Conservative MP Anna Soubry: Tories could never win an election again if they deliver hard Brexit
Speaking to Business Insider’s Adam Payne earlier this morning, Conservative MP Anna Soubry warned that her party could never win an election again if it delivered a hard Brexit.
“Unless we deal with this inherent problem of a rump in the party, get back to being in the centre of British politics which is always the place where you win elections, unless we get our party back and put this issue back to the British people with the option of continuing our membership of the EU, because that’s obviously the best deal that we have, then we are doomed.
“If we do all of these things, we can salvage the party and continue to govern,” she said.
“If we don’t, we are doomed.”
11:25: Government minister on tonight’s confidence vote: ‘I suspect it will be tight.’
A Remain-supporting government minister tells Business Insider tonight’s vote will be tight.
“I will vote for her but I suspect it will be tight. It may be the ones who bang the desks the loudest,” they tell us.
10:40: Prime Minister demanded ‘prompt’ vote — Brady
The 1922 Committee’s Graham Brady has briefed journalists on tonight’s vote.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
– The PM was told she would face a confidence vote at 2130 yesterday after 48 letters were submitted. There was “an element of traffic in both directions,” with some MPs withdrawing their letters.
– The Prime Minister wanted the confidence vote resolved “promptly,” Brady said. He defended the decision to hold the vote today, amid anger among opponents of the prime minister that holding a vote so hastily is designed to help her.
– “The rules say the vote should be as quickly as possible in the circumstances,” Brady said.
– “There could have been a conversation about delaying until she returned from Brussels on Thursday but there wasn’t that conversation,” Brady said. “It may have been different had we been in recess… but given the business planned to be going ahead in the house this week … most people were likely to be here.”
– Here’s how the ballot will be worded: “I have confidence in Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative party / I do not have confidence in Theresa May as leader of the Conservative party.”
10:28: Article 50 extension is ‘inevitable’
Labour MP and chair of the Brexit Select Committee Hillary Benn believes an Article 50 extension is “inevitable.”
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, at the end of the two-year exit process triggered when Theresa May invoked Article 50. But the government could seek to extend that deadline if its current state of chaos continues.
Benn’s warning echoes that of Theresa May’s, who warned on Wednesday that replacing her as leader would lead to an Article 50 extension request.
“One of their first acts would have to be extending or rescinding Article 50, delaying or even stopping Brexit when people want us to get on with it,” she said.
“A change in leadership will put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.”
“The only people whose interests would be served would be [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn and [Shadow Chancellor] John McDonnell.”
10:21: ‘An opportunity to give the ERG a good kicking’
One Remainer Tory MP and former minister told Business Insider that moderate MPs will be inclined to support the Prime Minister – even if they are opposed to her Brexit deal – because a leadership contest in the current political environment would look like an act of “self-indulgence”.
The MP told Business Insider: “Quite clearly if the vote of confidence is successful, we will have a fully tooth and claw leadership contest and we’ll end up with a Brexiteer as prime minister.”
“We need to support the prime minister at this point.”
“The moderate half of the Conservative party feels very strongly that this is an opportunity to give the ERG a kicking,” they added.
10:04: How will the confidence vote work?
Here’s how the confidence vote will play out:
1. A ballot is held: Between 1800 and 2000 UK time, MPs will vote in the House of Commons either to support or oppose Theresa May, marking a black cross on a piece of paper with two options – confidence or no confidence.
Key point: It required only 48 MPs, or 15% of Tory MPs, to trigger a vote itself. But it would require a simple majority of 158 – half the Conservative MPs plus one 50% of MPs – to depose the prime minister.
2. If May wins? She remains prime minister. But if she won by only a slender margin she could feel pressured to resign.
3. If May loses? Theresa May is no longer leader of the Conservative party. She would be forced to resign as prime minister. A leadership contest would then be held. The likes of Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, and Boris Johnson are seen as frontrunners to replace her if that happens.
09:45: Tory Remainer Anna Soubry calls letter-senders ‘a rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers’
Speaking at an Institute for Government event this morning, Tory MP Anna Soubry – one of the Conservative Party’s most committed Remainers – said those MPs who have sent letters to Graham Brady of were led by “a rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers.”
“They should have been booted out by previous leaders,” she told the IfG event.
“They behave appallingly and only represent themselves and their warped ideology. They need to get a life but they don’t have lives because they’re obsessed with Europe.”
09:00: Here’s Graham Brady’s letter announcing a vote of confidence in Theresa May.
1734: BIG! May says she’ll stand down before the next election
May said “it’s not her intention to go into the election in 2022” and is “not going to call a snap election” according to an MP outside the 1922 Committee.
“It was an emotional meeting,” the MP added.
“There was a massive amount of support for the prime minister in that room.”
Ministers are “crying in the room,” according to Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman.
20:57: Every Conservative MP has voted
Every single Tory MP has cast a vote this evening.
That’s perhaps not a big surprise, but what it means is that the magic number for the prime minister is 159. If over 159 MPs vote against her, she’ll have to resign.
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