Theresa May has vowed to fight a vote of no confidence in her premiership, warning restive Tory MPs that toppling her could result in Brexit chaos.
A secret ballot started at 6pm after the prime minister addressed the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, telling them she will not lead the party into the 2022 election.
Ms May earlier endured a brutal prime minister’s questions clash, where she faced calls to resign over the chaos ahead of tonight’s vote. If she loses, the Conservative party will immediately start seeking a new leader.
Join Indpendent Minds
For exclusive articles, events and an advertising-free read for
Get the best of The Independent
With an Independent Minds subscription for just
Get the best of The Independent
Without the ads – for just
The drama comes after Ms May shelved a crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal on Monday in the face of near-certain defeat.
According to Conservative Home, a majority of Conservative members (62%) want Tory MPs to vote no confidence in Theresa May.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, says Theresa May was “emotional” when she said she would not fight the next election.
He tells Sky News:
“She was very clear: she said in her heart she’d love to fight the next election but she knows that she can’t. She was quite emotional about that.”
David Davis refused to say how he had voted, telling journalists on the way out: “I can’t believe they asked for my ID card. Don’t they know I don’t believe in ID cards.”
EU leaders say they want to help Theresa May pass Brexit deal but won’t make serious concessions
EU leaders are watching on in horror at the Tory “catfight” unfolding in Westminster – but will still not make the concessions she needs to unite the Conservatives when she arrives in Brussels on Thursday.
The prime minister will have a rare two-way discussion with her EU counterparts at the European Council summit on Thursday afternoon, fresh off the plane from a bruising confidence vote in Westminster.
But despite a generally positive tone in Brussels, with officials and diplomats alike suggesting they want to help the prime minister, serious changes to the agreement that would actually win around her MPs will remain effectively off the table.
The Morley and Outwood MP added: “When asked whether she would fight an election if there was one in the next twelve months. The PM dodged the question and said she will be here as long as the party wants her. Those with marginal seats please think whether you want a repeat of the last election.”
Voting has now started in the no confidence ballot of Conservative MPs.
Speaking to reporters outside the committee room, the Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis says: “She got a really good reception, as you can hear.” Asked is she might lead party into next election, he said: “the PM was very frank about the clear view she has that colleagues had made known their views about the 2022 election. The decision tonight is about this year right now and Brexit and actually keeping her as PM right now is the right thing to do.”
PM has arrived at 1922 committee. Lots of cheers and banging on the desks when she entered the room, according to my colleague Lizzy Buchan, who is outside the room in parliament’s committee corridors.
Theresa May is now heading to the 1922 committee room in Westminster where she will address MPs before they start voting on the confidence ballot at 6pm. She is due to start addressing her colleagues and plea for their support in just a few minutes.
The public believes that Theresa May should stay as prime minister by a margin of 40% to 34%, according to snap new polling, writes Lizzy Buchan.
In a boost to the PM as she prepares to fight a no-confidence vote, a survey by YouGov found 58% of Tory voters back her to stay on, compared to 28% of Conservatives who would like to see her ousted.
The poll found 45% of overall Leave voters think she should remain as PM while 38% want to see her go.
An overwhelming majority believe that no other Tory leader could negotiate a better Brexit deal (57%). Just 18% think a challenger like Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab could do a better job.
“No doubt a factor in deciding whether to support Theresa May’s continued premiership is whether or not people believe her replacement could convince the EU to give Britain a better Brexit deal,” said YouGov’s Matthew Smith.
:: Sample Size: 3093 GB Adults Fieldwork: 12th December 2018
Conservatives restore whip to suspended sex text MP hours before Theresa May no-confidence vote
The Conservatives have handed the party whip back to a suspended MP just in time for him to take in tonight’s vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
Andrew Griffiths, who was suspended in July after bombarding a female constituent with thousands of messages, has been told he will be readmitted and allowed to take part in the ballot.
The married MP apologised after it was revealed that he had sent the 28-year-old constituent 2000 texts, including many of an explicit nature.
“I do this very reluctantly. I’ve tried my best to work with Theresa May,” he said.
“But she’s used up all her authority. The vote having to be pulled on Tuesday was really the fatal blow.”
According to the Derbyshire Telegraph, the Conservatives have restored the whip for Andrew Griffiths – so he can vote in this evening’s no confidence motion. He was suspended from the party for sending thousands of texts to a constituent.
Please allow a moment for this live blog to load
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here
Subscribe to Independent Minds to bookmark this article
Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Try Independent Minds free for 14 days to access this feature.