EXCL Theresa May came within one letter of leadership challenge last month
Theresa May came within one no-confidence letter of facing a vote on her leadership last month, it has been revealed.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said he had been on the brink of calling a ballot on the Prime Minister's future after receiving 47 letters from Tory MPs - one short of the amount needed.
He also revealed that he ended up hitting the 48 mark twice in one day last Tuesday after one Conservative MP withdrew his letter, claiming the timing was "bloody awful" for a formal vote.
Sir Graham finally announced last Wednesday morning that a no-confidence ballot would take place later that evening. Mrs May ended up winning it by 200 to 117.
Writing for The House magazine, he said: "On Tuesday morning I bumped into a colleague in the Library corridor. 'I’m really sorry Graham, I didn’t want to do this… but I just can’t leave it any longer.' A House of Commons envelope travelled from his inside jacket pocket to mine in a matter of seconds. Unseen, the trigger had been pulled.
"The famous ‘48th letter’ needed to cross the threshold to a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party had been received by the chairman of the 1922 Committee.
"Lots of people have congratulated me on my poker face recently but never had it been more important that I remain impassive: any sign that this was a critical moment would have changed the whole dynamic of the
process, so I bade the colleague farewell and walked quickly back to my office in Portcullis House.
"Time for a final count and to plan the next steps. The door had barely closed when there was a knock on it. Standing there was a Conservative MP who had submitted a letter to me a couple of weeks before. 'The timing is just bloody awful, I’d like to withdraw my letter,' they said. Back to 47.
"It was too early for a large whisky – or even a small one – so I just sat down and shook my head in disbelief. This was the second time in a month that the total had stood one below the critical figure. On the earlier occasion, the tide had ebbed rapidly down the beach. 47…46…45…44. Would this happen again?
"No, in the afternoon the threshold was crossed again. This time it was going to be for real."
Despite her victory, some Tory MPs said Mrs May should still be replaced.
But in a boost for the beleaguered Prime Minister, one of those critics today said he now had confidence in her.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who last week said Mrs May should go to see the Queen and resign, told her: "You now have my confidence."