Tory party backs Theresa May in confidence vote

Conservative party backs leader by 200 votes to 117

Dan Griffin Wed, Dec 12
LIVE: Tory party backs Theresa May in confidence vote

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  • 17:29

    So this is Brexit. Welcome to our live blog on the Tory party vote on Theresa May's leadership.

    The British prime minister has just been addressing the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. The secret ballot of party members will take place from 6pm with a result expected between 9-10pm.

  • 17:33
    Theresa May is expected to win the 159 Tory votes required for her to remain as leader of the party. So far, at least that number of MPs have come out and said they will support the PM. However, the vote is secret which means MPs could say one thing to the media and do something entirely different in the vote.
  • 17:39

    So how did this come about? As of this morning, at least 48 Tory MPs -- 15 per cent of the party's MPs -- have written to 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady expressing no confidence in May, triggering the vote.

    Yesterday, May pulled the parliamentary "meaningful vote" on the Brexit withdrawal agreement -- a vote May was certain to lose. She then embarked on a doomed whistlestop tour of Europe seeking some concessions, or at least clarification, on the Irish backstop aspect of the deal. She was told in the Netherlands, in Germany and in Brussels that there would be no change to the withdrawal agreement. Nada.

  • 17:40
  • 17:42
    The Sunday Times's Tim Shipman reports that May has told the 1922 Committee that she will not contest the next election as leader of the Conservatives. Apparently ministers were crying in the meeting.
  • 17:47
    Will that be enough to guarantee May a victory in tonight's vote? According to the BBC, some of the waverers are now asking the PM when she intends to step down as leader: will she go after Brexit at the end of March or will she wait until closer to the 2022 provisional date of the next election?  
  • 17:49
  • 17:51

    Tim Shipman says May is not putting any firm date on her departure.


  • 17:51
  • 17:57
    If May survives the vote, which she probably will, does she have any hope of getting the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament? The DUP won't back it with the backstop but there's no hope that that will be removed. So what then? A likely no deal Brexit. Will that prospect be enough to bring about a second referendum? And if May does survive the confidence vote then what next for Rees-Mogg, Boris and the rest of the Europhobes in the European Research Group. Many, many questions will remain after this evening.
  • 18:00
  • 18:03
    Voting has now started in the confidence ballot. Expect a result in about three hours.
  • 18:06
  • 18:10

    MP Nick Boles tweeted: “Theresa May was crystal clear: she will not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election. She now deserves the support of all Conservative MPs so she can get on with the job of delivering a Brexit compromise that can win a Commons majority.”

    So then nothing is clear. MPs are also reportedly no better aware now of when the deferred meaningful vote will take place in the Commons. Possibly before January 21st.

  • 18:12
    After the 1922 Committee meeting, cabinet minister Amber Rudd told reporters: “She’s made the commitment that I think is what people wanted, but she was very clear that she wont be taking the general election in 2022.”
  • 18:16
  • 18:19

    May apparently made a big pitch to MPs in the 1922 committee about the need to getting the DUP back onside, admitting that relations had deteriorated between the two parties.

    How she proposes to do that while the backstop remains in place is anyone's guess.

  • 18:22
    So it seems there's some clarity on that now: May gave a committment not to fight a 2022 general election but left the door open to contest an earlier general election as Conservative party leader.
  • 18:23
    Cliff Taylor: Sterling has reacted calmly enough to the day’s drama, weakening from its opening of 90.62p to as low as 90.69p after the holding of tonight’s vote was confirmed. However as it became more likely that Theresa May would survive the vote, the currency stabilised a bit and is now trading around 89.95p, according to Bloomberg data.   Traders were relieved that the immediate uncertainty and potential chaos which would have followed May being voted out of office has been avoided. There had been predictions that this would immediately have led to the currency dropping further. However even if May wins, the path to approval of the withdrawal agreement remains long and fraught. More swings in the currency market surely lie ahead.  Sometimes we feel the financial markets are operating on the basis of particular information not available to us all. But in this this it appears that traders and investors are as confused as the rest of us.
  • 18:24
    If you'd like to get in touch, please do by emailing or via twitter @dangriffinIT
  • 18:26
  • 18:29
    Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was not persuaded to vote for the prime minister in the ballot. He told the Press Association: “It was all the same old stuff. Nothing has changed.”
  • 18:31
    From Reuters:  Theresa May has secured indications of support from nearly 200 of her MPs, which would be enough to ensure she wins the confidence vote. The PM needs a simple majority - from 159 of 317 Conservative MPs - to remain leader.
  • 18:36
  • 18:44

    Listening to the BBC all day, it's amazing how little they discuss the Irish backstop even at this stage, when it is so abundantly clear that it is the most imporant thing in this whole crisis.

    From the Press Association: Arlene Foster has warned Theresa May that tinkering around the edges of the withdrawal deal will not be enough to win her support.

    Amid the unfolding crisis around her leadership, the prime minister met the DUP leader and deputy leader Nigel Dodds on Wednesday to discuss Brexit.

    Mrs Foster said she warned Mrs May that the controversial Irish border backstop proposal, which will tie Northern Ireland to certain European regulations if a wider UK/EU trade deal fails to materialise, was “dangerous” to the economy and Union.

    Foster wants the backstop gone (and she won't get that).

  • 18:45
  • 18:48
  • 18:59
    Tory MPs have now been voting for nearly one hour. 317 of them will cast ballots in a metal box in Westminster on Theresa May's leadership. Voting will go on until 8pm when the votes will be counted with a result expected by 9pm. If, as expected, May wins her party will be barred from challenging her leadership for one year. However, if the victory is a narrow one then she could come under pressure to resign.  
  • 19:01
  • 19:05

    Press Association political editor Andrew Woodcock says Theresa May might have saved her job by declaring to Conservative MPs that she will not lead the party into the next general election, but she risks turning herself into a lame duck prime minister.

  • 19:08
  • 19:17

  • 19:21
    According to media reports, about 80 per cent of Tory MPs are now said to have voted. The rest have just under 40 minutes to cast their ballots.
  • 19:31

    Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, who signed one of the 48 letters which triggered this whole thing, says he has no idea what the numbers are going to be this evening. But even if Theresa May wins we still have a problem, he says, noting how the DUP will not support the withdrawal agreement. "We need a leader who is positive and enthusiastic about the opportunities of leaving the EU," he tells the BBC. He adds that the UK needs a new pm who will go back to Europe and hammer out a new deal on the Irish backstop...

    "Which bit of 'We are not going to renegotiate' do you not understand?" the BBC presenter asks him.

  • 19:41

    Cliff Taylor writes:  UK business is finally finding its voice, with the CBI and the Institute of Directors both strongly critical of the challenge to Theresa May, saying it created even greater uncertainty. Which, given the way things have been, is some achievement.  

    However the difficulty for business is that even if, as expected, she wins the vote, the uncertainty goes on. There may not be any greater clarity on the timing of the House of Commons vote and its passage still looks very difficult, with May reportedly saying that it would require DUP support.

    Companies are now pressing the button on expensive contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, an issue now for many Irish businesses as well as their UK counterparts.

  • 19:44

    Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy writes: The Government is unlikely to issue any reaction to the Conservative party vote. The best thing we can do is keep quiet, says a senior source.

    Meanwhile there is relief around Leinster House that the prospect of a 2019 election had receded after Micheál Martin's offer to extend the confidence and supply deal with FG for another year. “The stock markets have responded favourably  to our move,” says one front bencher, tongue in cheek.
  • 19:49

    If the UK wants to delay Brexit, how does it do it?

    Europe editor Patrick Smyth has the answers.

  • 19:52
    Less than 10 minutes until voting closes. A result will then be expected within the hour. May is likely to win... but by how much?
  • 19:55

    Meanwhile, back in Dublin (writes Simon Carswell), business groups are concerned about the lack of detail on the Government’s no-deal contingency planning. There are growing concerns among companies about the increasing likelihood that the UK will crash out of the EU in light of the political turmoil at Westminster.

    The groups are calling on the Government not just to publish in detail the contingency plans but one group, Ibec, wants a new fund to help stabilise the businesses most affected by a hard Brexit. The Government is resisting revealing its hand on the basis that it is “not strategic or in the national interest”. Still, the lack of detail is a worry with just 106 sleeps to Brexit.

    Read the full story here

  • 19:56
  • 19:57
    The BBC just said a result is expected by 9pm "at the earliest".
  • 20:01
    So that should be that. Voting closes, counting begins.
  • 20:02
    Simon Carswell writes:  The Government’s press people have just said that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spoke by phone this evening. Both agreed the EU-UK divorce deal, which has led to the leadership challenge against Theresa May in London this evening, was “a balanced compromise and the best outcome available,” a statement said. They made clear that they were not for turning on the withdrawal agreement, however. “While they agreed to work to provide reassurance to the UK, the agreement cannot be reopened or contradicted,” the Dublin statement said. The timing of this announcement is odd; it will hardly help May in her attempt to survive the vote and reassure Tory doubters within the party’s ranks that she can extract reassurances from Brussels this week.
  • 20:16

    Another item from Simon Carswell:  While political chaos reigns in London, Tániste Simon Coveney tweets to reassure people that it has not spread to Dublin. Of the extension to the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil ruling out an election in 2019, he says: “Both parties have acted in the national interest at an important time when political certainty is needed!” In other words, unlike in the UK.


  • 20:17
  • 20:23
    It will be interesting to see how each side responds to the result. The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says a source told her that David Cameron's team once said that if more than 60 MPs had voted against him in a confidence vote then he would quit. At the same time, many expect May to continue to lead the party even if she only receives a majority of 1.
  • 20:27
  • 20:31
  • 20:44

    We should have a result in about 15 minutes.

  • 20:45
    Theresa May is also expected to make a statement.
  • 20:50
    Reporters have been admitted into Committee Room 14 in Westminster for the announcement of the result of the Tory confidence vote in Theresa May's leadership.
  • 20:50
    About an hour ago.
  • 20:51
  • 20:53
  • 20:59
    Here we go, incoming...
  • 21:00
    Conservative party has confidence in leader Theresa May.
  • 21:01

    Votes cast in favour: 200

    Votes against: 117

  • 21:04
    So a majority of 83 members of the Conservative party voted for Theresa May's leadership. 117 is a big number to vote against her though. It will be interesting to see what the ERG and their buddies will do now.
  • 21:06
    Media reaction so far is that this is by no means a comfortable result for May.
  • 21:08
  • 21:11
    A statement form Theresa May is expected shortly from Downing Street. Jeremy Corbyn says the PM must bring her "dismal deal" back to the Commons next week.
  • 21:12
    Theresa May will travel to Brussels tomorrow where she is unlikely to win any concessions on the Irish backstop from the leaders of the EU member states.
  • 21:19

    From Reuters: Britain's parliament needs to regain control of the Brexit process, opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said after prime minister
    Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence from her own party.
    "Tonight's vote makes no difference to the lives of our people," Corbyn said in a statement. "She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so Parliament can take back control."

  • 21:28

    Theresa May says she is pleased to have received the backing of her party. She acknowledges the significant vote against her but says the party must now get on with the business of Brexit.

    She says she will seek legal and political assurances from Europe that will assuage the concerns of the Commons on the Irish backstop.

  • 21:30
    May, in what turned out to be a very brief statement outside Downing Street, says the party's renewed mission is delivering Brexit, bringing the country back together and building a country that works for everyone.
  • 21:34
    The DUP's Nigel Dodds says the result doesn't change an awful lot. "As things stand the withdrawal agreement would have no hope of getting through the House of Commons... One of the mysteries is how on earth she brought this withdrawal to the House of Commons."
  • 21:36

    Dodds tells the BBC that the Irish backstop "has got to be changed". He's claiming Theresa May,  in her statement outside No 10 just there, said she will seek changes -- (but she didn't actually say that, she talked about assurances, not changes). Dodds says May needs to finder her "inner Maggie Thatcher".

  • 21:39
  • 21:44

    Cliff Taylor writes: Sterling edged down  slightly after the vote -- though it is still more than 0.5p up on day at right on 90p  against the euro -- as investors and traders tried to work out what it means. Like the rest of us.

    May’s departure would have hit sterling but the relatively high numbers who voted against her do not give confidence that she can get Commons support for the withdrawal treaty. So we are back where we were with little idea of a way forward. More political and market  drama awaits.  

  • 21:49
    Here's a video of the announcement of the result of the confidence vote.
  • 22:00
    We'll leave it there for tonight. What next? What does it all mean? Check  and the newspaper tomorrow for reaction and expert analysis. Incidentally, tonight was supposed to be the Tory party Christmas do. Cheers!