Home | News | Politics: LIVE: Conservative MPs rally behind Theresa May ahead of ahead of confidence vote

Politics: LIVE: Conservative MPs rally behind Theresa May ahead of ahead of confidence vote

LONDON — Theresa May will face a leadership challenge this evening after 48 Tory MPs sent letters demanding a no-confidence vote.

Conservative MP Graham Brady, the committee's chairman, said a ballot will be held between 6pm and 8pm tonight in the House of Commons.

"The votes will be counted immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible in the evening," Brady said.

Follow Business Insider's liveblog for the latest developments in another hectic day at Westminster.

15:49: Downing Street restores whip to MP reprimanded for sexual misconduct

15:49: Downing Street restores whip to MP reprimanded for sexual misconductplay

15:49: Downing Street restores whip to MP reprimanded for sexual misconduct

(YouTube/Burton Albion)

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."

15:24: The Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated, European Parliament says

15:24: The Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated, European Parliament saysplay

15:24: The Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated, European Parliament says

(Adam Payne/Business Insider)

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.

14:50: ERG Conservatives believe the vote will be close

14:50: ERG Conservatives believe the vote will be closeplay

14:50: ERG Conservatives believe the vote will be close

(Getty)

Despite at least half of all Conservative MPs publicly declaring support for Theresa May, members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group believe it'll be a close vote.

"It'll 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...

14:10: May on course for victory

14:10: May on course for victoryplay

14:10: May on course for victory

(Getty)

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.

13:34: Gove insists May will win

13:34: Gove insists May will winplay

13:34: Gove insists May will win

(Reuters)

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.

13:10: May to quit once Brexit talks are done?

13:10: May to quit once Brexit talks are done?play

13:10: May to quit once Brexit talks are done?

(Getty)

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

12:25: May's supporters are furious with letter sendersplay

12:25: May's supporters are furious with letter senders

(Getty)

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: Corbyn to May: 'No more excuses, no more running away'

12:16: Corbyn to May: 'No more excuses, no more running away'play

12:16: Corbyn to May: 'No more excuses, no more running away'

(Getty)

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'

12:08: Corbyn accuses May of 'appalling behaviour'play

12:08: Corbyn accuses May of 'appalling behaviour'

(Getty)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Theresa May's decision to delay the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal and refusal to say when it'll 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

11:52: It's PMQs timeplay

11:52: It's PMQs time

(WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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'll get underway at 12:00 GMT.

11:31: Businesses are ‘tearing their hair out’ at current state of Westminster politics

11:31: Businesses are ‘tearing their hair out’ at current state of Westminster politicsplay

11:31: Businesses are ‘tearing their hair out’ at current state of Westminster politics

(REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

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

11:26: Conservative MP Anna Soubry: Tories could never win an election again if they deliver hard Brexitplay

11:26: Conservative MP Anna Soubry: Tories could never win an election again if they deliver hard Brexit

(Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

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.'

Theresa Mayplay

Theresa May

(Getty)

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

Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committeeplay

Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee

(Reuters)

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 Hillary Bennplay

Labour MP Hillary Benn

(REUTERS/Neil Hall)

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'

ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks to the media after submitting a letter of no confidence in Prime Minister Teresa May on November 15, 2018 in London, England.play

ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks to the media after submitting a letter of no confidence in Prime Minister Teresa May on November 15, 2018 in London, England.

(Dan Kitwood / Getty)

Many moderate Tory MPs are hoping the European Research Group of Brexit-supporting MPs, many of whom submitted letters, will finish today with their tails between their legs if the Prime Minister sees off a leadership challenge.

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?

Sir Graham Bradyplay

Sir Graham Brady

(Reuters)

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'

09:45: Tory Remainer Anna Soubry calls letter-senders 'a rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers'play

09:45: Tory Remainer Anna Soubry calls letter-senders 'a rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers'

(REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

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.

09:00: Here's Graham Brady's letter announcing a vote of confidence in Theresa May.play

09:00: Here's Graham Brady's letter announcing a vote of confidence in Theresa May.

(1922 Committee)

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