Theresa May faces a vote of confidence as prime minister

Theresa May
Fréa Lockley

On 12 December, Graham Brady announced that he had received enough letters to trigger a vote of confidence in Theresa May’s leadership of the Conservative Party.

1922 Committee

Brady is chair of the Conservative backbenchers’ 1922 Committee. Party rules state that if the committee receives letters from at least 48 members (15%) calling for a vote of confidence in the prime minister, this will trigger a vote. If May wins this vote, her leadership can’t be challenged again for 12 months. If she loses she must resign and can’t stand in the leadership race that will then take place. May needs at least 158 votes to win but her position could be in doubt if she fails to win convincingly.

Brady refused to say how many letters he had in total, but it is known that letters have been going in since May’s so-called Chequers Brexit deal in June.

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This news comes at a crucial time in UK politics, as there is still no deal on Brexit. A leadership contest could take up to six weeks.

Secret ballot

Conservative MPs will cast votes in a secret ballot between 6pm and 8pm on 12 December. The results are expected at 9pm.

In a statement outside No 10, May said:

I will contest that vote with everything I’ve got… A change of leadership in the Conservative party now will put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.


In response to this news, Labour chair Ian Lavery said May’s “weakness and failure” had “completely immobilised the Government at this critical time”. Labour MP Angela Rayner called the situation “a complete shambles”.

SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon was also critical and said:

Today is a stark reminder that the UK is facing chaos and crisis entirely because of a vicious civil war within the Tory party. What a self-centred bunch they are. They all need to go, not just the PM.


Some Conservative MPs have offered early support for May. Others like Jacob Rees-Mogg said the country “needs a new leader” and it was time for “May to resign”. Speculation is rife as to who might step forward as potential leaders if May loses the vote. The most recent survey on Conservative Home, in November, placed Boris Johnson as the front-runner, and Sajid Javid in second place.

Featured image via screengrab

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