Cast your mind back to December 12th 2018. The day Theresa May faced a vote of no confidence from the Conservative Party. A vote she won by 200 votes to 117 votes. And a victory that granted her a year’s grace.
Now a lot has happened since then. The Prime Minister has confirmed she will stand down before the next stage of the negotiation process. Her Government has survived a vote of no confidence. And her Brexit deal has been defeated three times by Parliament.
The latest defeat led to a change of thinking in Number 10. In a controversial move the Prime Minister initiated cross-party talks with the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. Widely interpreted by her Brexiteers she is willing to adopt a softer Brexit. The anger is palpable.
As earlier highlighted until December there is no formal mechanism for Conservative MPs to challenge the Prime Minister. Yet some MPs are pushing for an informal vote in Theresa May’s leadership. The backbench 1922 committee have presently ruled out such a vote, but given the circumstances, it is surely legitimate to ask whether this is the right decision.
The one year grace period in the rules was devised as a way to avoid constant challenges. This is sensible. However it fails to take into account either exceptional circumstances or a change of mood within the Parliamentary Party. I think it could be argued that both have now happened.
In order to test this hypothesis and trigger a new vote, some qualifications would have to be met. Firstly there would have to be a clear indication the Government’s official policy position had changed and contravened the previous manifesto. An agreement on the need for a customs union would meet this criteria.
Secondly there would have to be a sense that considerably more than 117 MPs were unhappy with the Prime Minister. I would suggest the number of letters needed would now be 130 – 5% more than 117. This would signal a change in mood. This is undoubtedly a very high criteria but if the mood is as bad as many are suggesting it is impossible to meet.
Truthfully there is not much chance of such a vote happening. However, surely it is right to question whether a Prime Minister who has undoubtedly lost the confidence of her party can survive on a mere technicality.