Theresa May tells Tory MPs she will not lead party into 2022 general election
Theresa May has told Tory MPs that she will not lead the party into the next election if it is held in 2022.
The Prime Minister also told a packed meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee that she had no intention of calling a snap general election in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock.
Instead, she told them she was focussed on repairing relations with her DUP partners and securing Parliament's support for her Brexit deal.
She made her address as Tory MPs prepared to vote in a no-confidence ballot on her leadership. The result is due around 9pm.
Conservative backbencher Alex Shelbrooke told journalists that some MPs had tears in their eyes when Mrs May confirmed she will stand down as leader before the next election.
"She said she will do everything she can to make sure the next election is in 2022," he said. " She said that it is not her intention to (lead the party into 2022 election). She said that in her heart she knows that is not going to happen.
"She said she is absolutely committed to delivering Brexit and delivering a deal that the DUP can back and she's committed to ensuring we get to 2022 before the next general election, and focussing on the domestic agenda."
The Elmet and Rothwell MP added: "Her opening remarks were 'I am not going to call a snap election'. There is an impasse and we will get through it and we will not have a snap election. She said there are several things that can happen and she does not want a second referendum.
"She said she does not want to lead us into the 2022 election. There was a bit of shock, a couple of tears in eyes. It is an emotional meeting. There was a huge amount of support for the Prime Minister in that room."
Tory vice-chairman James Cleverly said the Prime Minister had told the meeting that now was "a very very bad time to replace a leader".
He said: "It would cause delay, it would put a question mark over the timetable, it might give others the excuse to delay or even pull Article 50 completely. She said that would be completely unacceptable and the British people would not accept that. We've got to deliver Brexit, we've got to deliver on time and the best way of doing that is to focus on the job that we've got rather than the delay and distraction of a leadership election."
Mr Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, added: "What everybody demands of us is that we deliver Brexit and then get on with the job in hand. That means certain things need to happen - we need to make sure the relationship with the DUP works, she needs to speak to other European heads of government and she's working on that. But it's very clear that there's a job of work to get on with.
"She recognised people were frustrated were with what has happened and what we need to do to move forward. She said this will not be resolved with a snap election. There's not going to be an election, we're going to deliver Brexit. Obviously the Labour party are pushing for an election and she made it very clear we're not having an election.
"It was very clear that she viewed her duty is to deliver this and that as a party we've got a duty to deliver this and that we will not be forgiven by the electorate if we get blown off course."
Earlier, 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."
Downing Street hope Mrs May's comments will convince some wavering MPs to vote for her in tonight's ballot, safe in the knowledge that she will stand down rather than lead the party into the next election.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Brexiteer European Research Group and a leading critic of the Prime Minister, said Mrs May's comments did not go far enough.
The Prime Minister hedged her bets on the question of leading the party into the 2022 election - she said she had no intention, but the word intention is a classic politician’s word, because it can change," he said.