Source: The Sun
This afternoon Mrs May faced MPs for what could be her last ever session of Prime Minister’s Questions – with her husband Philip watching from the public gallery in a show of solidarity.
She warned that the General Election which could follow her toppling would plunge Britain into chaos – and even opened with a joke as she tried to brush off the dire threat to her leadership.
The PM quipped that she had “many meetings” planned with Tory MPs as she lobbies for their support.
She pledged to continue her efforts to fix the hated backstop in a bid to force her Brexit deal through the House of Commons.
And when Jeremy Corbyn called on her to resign, Mrs May vowed to fight on to avoid the chaos which a Labour government would bring to Britain.
She blasted: “All he wants to do is create chaos in our economy, damage, division in our society and damage to our economy. That’s Labour, that’s Corbyn.
“The biggest threat to the people of this country isn’t leaving the EU – it’s a Corbyn government.”
She added: “A General Election at this time would not be in the national interest in the middle of negotiations.”
Speaking in Downing Street this morning, the PM struck a defiant tone as she claimed toppling her would hand Mr Corbyn the keys to No10 and mean Brexit would have to be delayed.
She 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.”
In theory, Mrs May needs to win the support of 158 Conservative MPs to survive – but if she scrapes by with a small margin of victory, she could be forced out anyway.
As the PM faced the fight of her life:
- Cabinet ministers and Remain-backing Tories piled in behind her with more than 100 MPs 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 start next week 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.
How Theresa May could lose her job even if she wins tonight’s vote
THERESA May will win tonight’s confidence vote if she gets the support of 158 Tory MPs – a simple majority.
But she may end up quitting even if she does win, if her margin of victory turns out to be embarrassingly slim.
If 120 or more of her MPs oppose her, the PM might well conclude she can’t carry on.
It would be a signal that she has lost her authority and has no chance of pushing a Brexit deal through the Commons.
Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns told talkRADIO this morning: “If she wins by one and wants to continue that’s ridiculous. It’s time to go.”
Tory MP David TC Davies pledged support for Mrs May, but warned she needs a large majority to continue in her job.
He said: “If she has not got two-thirds I think that would put her in a difficult position.”
In 1990, Margaret Thatcher won a narrow majority of MPs on a leadership ballot but resigned shortly afterwards.
At least 130 Tory MPs have publicly said today that they plan to support Mrs May in the vote of confidence.
But because it is a secret ballot, they are free to vote against her when the time comes.
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.