Defiant Theresa May vows to fight no-confidence vote 'with everything I've got' after Tories pull trigger

Defiant Theresa May vows to fight no-confidence vote 'with everything I've got' after Tories pull trigger

December 12, 2018

The leadership contest was triggered overnight after 48 Conservatives put in letters calling for the PM to go.

Speaking in Downing Street this morning, Mrs May struck a defiant tone as she claimed toppling her would be a boost to Labour and mean Brexit would have to be delayed.

The PM said: "Sir Graham Brady has confirmed he has received 48 letters and there will now be a vote of confidence. I will contest that vote with everything I've got.

"A change of leadership in the Conservative party now would put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.

"A new leader wouldn’t be in place by the January 21 legal deadline, so a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in Parliament.

"The new leader wouldn’t have time to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and get the legislation through parliament by March 29, so 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.

"None of that would be in the national interest. The only people whose interests would be served would be Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell."

As the PM faced the fight of her life:

  • Cabinet ministers and Remain-backing MPs piled in behind her with more than 100 pledging support
  • Brexiteers insisted she must go and let a new leader restart talks with the EU
  • David Davis and Dominic Raab teamed up with Arlene Foster to announce a new plan for Brexit
  • Contenders such as Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid jostled for position to replace Mrs May
  • The PM called off a planned Cabinet meeting and trip to Dublin today

A vote of confidence will take place between 6pm and 8pm, backbench boss Graham Brady announced early this morning.

The PM could then be gone by tomorrow morning – with the result set to be announced around 9pm.

If she loses, a leadership election will then take place with a new Prime Minister likely to take office by mid-January.

But she could choose to quit immediately instead, with an interim leader taking over until the permanent replacement is found.

But if the PM manages to win, she will be safe for the next year with no new leadership contest allowed for another 12 months.

The leadership contest was triggered after rebellious Tories stepped up their campaign against Mrs May while she was touring Europe – in an echo of the plot against Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

The PM has been trying to persuade EU leaders to fix her Brexit deal, but will have to scrap a planned trip to Dublin today to lobby Irish leader Leo Varadkar.

Sir Graham, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, announced this morning that he has received the 48 letters needed to trigger a leadership contest under party rules.

He told colleagues that "events have moved very quickly overnight" with more MPs putting in their letters.

Runners and riders: Who could replace Theresa May?

Boris Johnson

PROS – Led the Vote Leave campaign and is seen as the star Brexiteer by many of his fellow backbenchers. He has been an outspoken critic of Theresa May's deal.

CONS – Hugely divisive figure in his own party, let alone the country.

Dominic Raab

PROS – The former Brexit secretary is seen as a rising star by many Leavers. He resigned over Theresa May's deal and could promise to take talks in a bold new direction.

CONS – Until recently, Mr Raab was relatively unknown among the wider public. He could be drowned out by support for Boris.

Sajid Javid

PROS – Mr Javid is probably the front-runner from within the Cabinet after his successful start to life as Home Secretary. He has made a number of bold pitches to his own vision for Britain that sets him apart from the PM, most notably on immigration.

CONS Voted Remain, but kept a low profile in the referendum.

Jeremy Hunt

PROS – Another leading Cabinet candidate, Mr Hunt impressed many by facing down junior doctors in his record-breaking stint as Health Secretary. Since being promoted to Foreign Secretary his diplomatic skills have seen him secure some big wins.

CONS – Voted Remain in the EU referendum, although seems to have had a late conversion to Brexit after criticising the EU's arrogance.

Amber Rudd

PROS – Admired and respected within the party for her sensible and diligent approach. After losing her job as Home Secretary during the fallout from the Windrush scandal, she has recently been brought back into the Cabinet.

CONS – Strong Remainer and supports a second referendum – which would go down like a cup of cold sick with Tory Brexiteers.

David Davis

PROS – The first Brexit Secretary would be the top choice of many in Jacob Rees-Mogg's ERG group. Was a leading figure in Vote Leave.

CONS – Has faced criticism and sniping from Whitehall over his attention to detail and focus during his stint as Brexit Secretary.

Mrs May will have two more chances to make the case she should be allowed to stay after her Downing Street speech this morning – she will take what could be her last Prime Minister's Questions at lunchtime and make a speech to the 1922 Committee later.

The vote will then take place in a Commons committee room from 6pm.

Ballots will be counted "immediately afterwards" and the result announced this evening, Sir Graham said.

Bookies said Mrs May was odds-on to win the vote despite the anger in the Tory party.

Cabinet ministers today scrambled to support the PM as Brexiteers called for colleagues to vote against her.

No confidence vote – what happens next?

A leadership election is called if the party leader resigns – as David Cameron did in 2016 – or loses a vote of no confidence.

This is triggered when 15 per cent of the parliamentary party write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady.

There are currently 316 Tory MPs so the threshold, which has now been reached, is 48.

All of these MPs will be asked to vote tonight on whether they have confidence in Mrs May

If the PM wins she would be entitled to stay in office for at least a further year without facing a challenge from her own party, but if she lost she would have to resign and a leadership contest would be called.

The last no confidence vote against a sitting Tory leader was in 2003.

Opposition leader Iain Duncan Smith lost the vote and stood down. Michael Howard was elected unopposed.

John Major resigned as Tory leader in 1995 to face down his critics and was re-elected. He stayed as prime minister throughout.

Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid, who are likely to be frontrunners to replace Mrs May if she loses, both pledged their support for the Prime Minister along with other senior ministers including Philip Hammond, Michael Gove and Amber Rudd.

Justice Secretary David Gauke claimed that if the PM did go, her replacement would have to "delay Brexit" in order to buy time to negotiate a deal.

But top Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, who led the coup against Mrs May, called on their colleagues to vote against her in the leadership ballot – warning that if she wins, she will end up leading the party into the next General Election.

The European Research Group bosses 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."

Potential replacements have already started manoeuvring to put themselves in pole position to take over.

Boris Johnson and Mr Javid have both written for the Spectator magazine, known as the "Tory Bible", setting out their stall for a leadership bid.

Other possible contenders if the PM does lose tonight's vote could include Mr Hunt, Ms Rudd, David Davis or Dominic Raab.

The hardline Brexiteers would seek to find a single candidate to unite behind to lower the risk of the pro-Brexit vote being split.

In a leadership election, Tory MPs would have the chance to whittle down the list of contenders to two names with party activists getting the final say on which one wins.

The new leader would then automatically become Prime Minister – but could face a Commons challenge from Labour, who are desperate to force a General Election as soon as possible.

Today's leadership challenge comes after mounting anger over Mrs May's Brexit deal and her decision to pull the parliamentary vote on it.

It was led by Brexiteer MPs who want to get a more hardline PM to reopen negotiations with the EU and prepare for a No Deal outcome.

What are the odds? Bookies' tips for next Tory leader

BORIS Johnson and Dominic Raab are today joint favourites to become the next Tory leader after a no confidence vote in Theresa May was triggered.

Both MPs are priced at 4/1 to replace May if she doesn’t survive the vote which takes place later this evening.

And it is set to be a dramatic vote as bookies can't call which way it is going to swing with Coral offering 10/11 that May wins and 10/11 she loses.

Joint-favourite Raab, 44, dramatically left his role as Brexit Secretary last month and has been widely tipped to become the party's new leader.

Meanwhile, Boris, 54, has been openly campaigning against May who has struggled following her Brexit negotiations.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is priced at 6/1 while Home Secretary Sajid Javid is also in the running with bookies pricing him as low as 5/1.

Punters can back Jeremy Hunt at 7/1 while outsiders Penny Mordaunt and Jacob Rees-Mogg are both priced at 12/1.

Full list of runners and riders:

Dominic Raab: 4/1

Boris Johnson: 4/1

Sajid Javid: 5/1

Michael Gove: 6/1

Jeremy Hunt: 7/1

Penny Mordaunt: 12/1

Jacob Rees-Mogg: 12/1

David Davis: 14/1

Amber Rudd: 16/1

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