Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, has received at least 48 letters from Conservative MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in May. Under party rules, a contest is triggered if 15% of Conservative MPs write to the chair of the committee of Tory backbenchers.
A ballot will be held on Wednesday evening between 6pm and 8pm, Brady said, with votes counted “immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible”.
The prime minister will now need the backing of at least 158 Tory MPs to see off the Brexiters’ challenge, and her position would then be safe for 12 months. However, the prime minister could decide to resign if votes against her were below the threshold to topple her, but significant enough in number.
“Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be pulling together to serve our country,” she said in a 8.45am press statement.
Meanwhile, It's entirely possible this is precisely what May wants. Here are some thoughts I penned Monday but did not publish in expectation of this announcement. First here are two key rules.
Leadership Challenge vs Opposition Vote of No Confidence
- A leadership challenge can only come from the Tories and only they vote. If May was ousted, the Tories would get to elect a replacement. But such a challenge can only happen once a year.
- The opposition party can trigger a motion of no confidence. Everyone votes. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was reluctant to call such a vote out of fear of strengthening May's hand if he lost.
The Tories may have fallen into a trap. These points will explain.
- It was to May’s advantage to trigger a leadership challenge ASAP because it keeps her options open while closing the door for another year on a leadership challenge. A leadership challenge was coming. I am convinced May wanted it sooner rather than later. She got it.
- If May survives the challenge, by even one vote, Tories cannot hold another leadership confidence vote for a year, no matter what foolish thing she does.
- Corbyn had been hesitant to call for a parliament-wide motion of no confidence out of fear he loses. Instead, he clings to the notion May will be forced to resign.
- If May survives the Tory challenge, she would even be free to threaten to resign or call new elections unless the Tories back her preposterous deal.
- If we got to point four, the Tories would then either have to vote for her deal or risk elections. Labour is leading in the polls.
- May’s problem is the DUP. They may dump her triggering elections at any point.
- The DUP’s problem, if they do not do along with May, is the possibility a hard border.
- In the end, I think May is counting on points 7 and 5. But first she had to sucker a leadership challenge out of the Tories, which she just did.
Parading around Europe looking like a fool may have been a setup. The same applies with promising a vote on the agreement and not delivering one.
It's possible this all happened with May not thinking about such a setup, but I doubt it.
Everything I've Got
May seems like a desperate badger trapped in a corner. "Everything I've got" may very well be the scenario I outlined above.
If it was a trap, it could of course backfire on May as early as Wednesday evening. But desperate people do desperate things.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock