Conservative MPs are calling for Theresa May to resign ‘within weeks’, as splits within the Tory party over Brexit deepen and confidence in her leadership tumbles among party members.
The Prime Minister is facing a possible back-bench revolt over her Government’s flagship Brexit legislation next week, as the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons in a high-stakes moment for the process.
A Conservative MP and former ally to Mrs May told ITV’s Robert Peston yesterday: ‘We can’t go on with TM for much longer.
‘Her inability to show leadership or make a decision is creating a vacuum the Remainers use to run riot in. Once the votes are over next week, she has to go.’
A poll this week for Conservative Home found that almost one in four Tory party members wants Mrs May to resign immediately – a rise of 10% in a month.
The survey also found that 45% want the PM to resign before the next election, meaning less than a third of those polled want May at the helm when Britain next goes to the polls.
The poll of 1,188 party members also found dismal satisfaction ratings for the PM, with Philip Hammond the only cabinet member with lower ratings.
Michael Gove was the most popular member of the Cabinet, followed by the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Government announced yesterday that the EU Withdrawal Bill will return to the Commons on 12 June, with MPs set to vote 15 times in a single day on amendments to the legislation introduced by the House of Lords.
Mrs May is facing a series of knife-edge results, with 12 rebel Remainers including Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Grieve threatening to vote against their party in order to force the Government to stay in the Customs Union.
Mrs May is expected to put forward her own customs plan before next Tuesday’s showdown, but it remains to be seen whether it will satisfy rebels sufficiently to persuade them to vote in line with the whip.
The announcement on the Bill’s return to the Commons came as Downing Street insisted the UK will be ‘fully prepared’ for crashing out of the European Union without a deal.
Number 10 insisted that Mrs May still believes that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, despite the release of reports drawn up by civil servants outlining the possibility of a ‘Doomsday Brexit’ that would leave the country short of medicine, fuel and food.
How would a Conservative leadership contest work?
A leadership contest can be triggered in two ways. Either the leader must resign, or at least 15% of Conservative MPs need to write to the chairman of the 1922 Committee expressing a lack of confidence in the current leader.
The 1922 Committee is a committee of all the Conservative backbench MPs, which meets weekly while the House of Commons is sitting.
Any MP who wishes to run as candidate needs the support of two fellow MPs in order to get onto the ballot paper. If only one candidate is nominated, they automatically become the next leader.
Tory MPs then vote using the first past the post system. If more than three candidates have been nominated, the one with the lowest proportion of votes is eliminated and another ballot is held. This process continues until two candidates remain.
Conservative Party members then vote for the two nominees, and the winner becomes the new leader.