British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to fight off an attempt to oust her from power with “everything I’ve got”.
Conservative Party MPs have triggered a vote of no confidence in the prime minister’s leadership of the party following her decision to delay the vote on her Brexit deal.
Speaking on the steps of No.10 Downing Street on Wednesday morning, May warned her party that changing leader now could lead to Brexit being delayed or prevented and would “put our country’s future at risk”.
“Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division,” she said.
Bernard Jenkin, the senior Brexiteer backbencher, dismissed May’s suggestion it was too dangerous to change leader at this time.
“The UK changed prime minister in May 1940 – in the middle of a monstrously greater national crisis than this. If it has to be done, it has to be done,” he tweeted.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee, announced on Wednesday morning that the threshold of 48 MPs required to trigger a leadership contest had been reached.
To cling on to power May will need the support of more than 50% of the 315 Conservative MPs to stay in office – 158 in total.
The vote will take place between 6pm and 8pm this evening and the result will be announced later tonight.
If the PM loses the vote, she would not be able to stand in the subsequent leadership contest.
Candidates for the leadership must be nominated by two Conservative MPs. If only one candidate comes forward, he or she becomes leader.
If a number of would-be leaders are nominated, the list is whittled down to a shortlist of two in a series of votes by MPs.
The final pair then go to a postal ballot of all party members, with the
position of leader – and prime minister – going to the victor.
Several Cabinet ministers – including those seen as potential leadership candidates – have this morning come out in support of May’s leadership.
Michael Gove, secretary of state for environment, said he was backing the prime minister “100% and urged other Tory MPs to “do the same”.
“She is battling hard for our country and no one is better placed to ensure we deliver on the British people’s decision to leave the EU,” he said.
Ian Lavery, the chairman of the opposition Labour Party, said May’s “weakness and failure has completely immobilised the government at this critical time for the country”.