Theresa May set to tell Tory MPs she will not fight next election as leader as confidence vote looms

Posted On: 
12th December 2018

Theresa May is set to reassure her warring MPs that she will not fight the next election ahead of a crunch vote which could see her kicked out of Downing Street.

Theresa May takes Prime Minister's Questions ahead of tonight's no confidence vote.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a major concession to her critics, the Prime Minister will indicate that she has no intention of remaining in power for years to come.

That marks a major shift for Mrs May, who has previously insisted she is "not a quitter" and could still be Tory leader the next time the nation goes to the polls.

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Theresa May to face no-confidence ballot by Tory MPs tonight as 48 letters go in

Tory MPs will take part in a no-confidence ballot this evening after more than the required 48 submitted letters to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady saying they wanted her out.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "This vote isn’t about who leads the party into the next election. It is about whether it makes sense to change leader at this point in the Brexit negotiations.

"She’s said on a number of occasions, in fact she said after the last general election, that she would serve as long as her colleagues wanted her to."

His comments have been seen as a clear attempt to win over Conservative MPs who fear that if she wins this evening, Mrs May will see it as a mandate to stay on as leader until the next election.

The Prime Minister will address a meeting of Tory MPs at 5pm, an hour before voting begins in the no-confidence ballot.

Although she is not expected to put a firm date on her departure, she will seek to reassure her colleagues that she will leave Downing Street after Brexit is delivered.

Mrs May will need to secure 158 votes in tonight's ballot to stay in post and guarantee that she cannot be challenged again for at least another year.

Her spokesman said: "She is fighting for every vote. We’ve seen support from across the parly party this morning but obviously there’s a lot more to do this afternoon ahead of MPs being given a chance to express their views."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Conservative grandee Sir Ken Clarke led backbenchers rallying around Mrs May.

He said: "At a time of grave national crisis on an issue which we all agree is huge importance to future generations - can my Rt Hon Friend think of anything more unhelpful, irrelevant, and irresponsible, than for the Conservative Party to embarks on weeks of a Conservative leadership election?"

PoliticsHome understands that a number of moderate Tory MPs are appealing to chief whip Julian Smith for the PM to spell out a departure date.

One MP told PoliticsHome: "Ideally when she speaks to us she needs to say it but we will judge on what she says."

They warned colleagues that toppling the PM was "nuclear" and could destroy the party, while there were other ways to pile pressure on her to change her Brexit deal.

"We do have small arms fire: Grenades, light artillery, heavy artillery, air support," they explained. "There is a whole armory of stuff.”   

Meanwhile, a former Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome the PM would win the vote tonight but that the showdown would mark "the start of the end".

"Tonight will be the start of the Cabinet losing confidence in her," the senior MP said. "They are all ready to go. They are all organising their leadership campaigns."