EXPLAINED: How Conservative MPs could oust Theresa May in a leadership coup

Posted On: 
11th December 2018

As rumours swirl that Theresa May could be facing an imminent test of her leadership, here's our read-in-a-minute guide to how it could all play out under Tory rules.

The Prime Minister would get a year's grace if she wins the confidence vote.

How would a no confidence vote start?

To kick off the process of ousting Mrs May, 48 Tory MPs incensed about her handling of Brexit would need to send a letter of no confidence to the chairman of the party's 1922 backbench committee, Sir Graham Brady.

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Under Conservative party rules, a challenge is triggered if 15% of Tory MPs who don't have a Government job put in their no confidence letters - hence the 48 number everyone is banging on about.


So what happens then?

If the crucial threshold is reached, we'd expect an announcement from Mr Brady about an impending vote, which should take place "as soon as possible in the circumstances prevailing" under party rules.

Once that gets underway, all Tory MPs would be balloted to vote for or against Mrs May.


What if she wins it?

Conservative rules state that Mrs May would need only a simple majority of her MPs to back her in order to stay on. And if she wins that ballot by as little as a one vote, she cannot face another challenge for a year - buying her time to weather the Brexit storm.


What if she loses?

If Mrs May loses the vote (again by a simple majority) that's it - she has to step down as party leader and would not be able to stand in the Conservative leadership election that would then automatically follow. Here's our guide to who the runners-and-riders would be if that happened.


What then?

The race to replace her would well and truly ON.

Anyone hoping to run for the Tory leadership must attract nominations from at least 15% of Conservative MPs to be in with a chance.

If there are more than two people in the running, successive ballots of all Conservative MPs will take place until the field is whittled down to just two. After that - and provided nobody drops out - the vote on the final two candidates will be thrown open to the full Conservative party membership, with forms sent out across the country in a process that could take months.

Whoever wins that vote is crowned leader and the Prime Minister and then has the thankless task of cracking on with Brexit. Or cancelling it completely. Or whatever the heck they feel like - it's 2018 and nobody knows what is happening any more.