Tory Brexiteer calls for fresh vote of confidence in Theresa May's leadership
A leading Tory Brexiteer has demanded another vote of confidence in Theresa May’s leadership in a bid to pile pressure on her to quit as Prime Minister.
Mark Francois wrote to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, warning that she would "destroy" the party if she remains in post.
He called for an "indicative" ballot of Tory MPs to be held on Wednesday, before the Prime Minister meets European leaders in Brussels at a special EU summit to discuss her request for another Brexit extension.
Mrs May won a confidence vote by Tory MPs in December, which meant that under Tory rules she could not be formally challenged for another year.
But in his letter to Sir Graham, Mr Francois said an "informal" vote should be held to demonstrate to the PM that she no longer has the support of her MPs.
He said: "I am writing to you in a personal capacity to express my sincere belief that Theresa May should now resign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
"If she will not do this, then I must ask that you and your colleagues on the Executive of the 1922 Committee establish an informal 'indicative vote' of confidence in the Prime Minister, immediately prior to this Wednesday's meeting of the Committee, so that colleagues have an opportunity to demonstrate that they have lost faith in her leadership.
"My reasons for asking this of you relate to both the existential future of our party and the destin of our country."
He added: “We simply cannot go on like this, with a weak leader, a riven Cabinet and a party in despair.
"I believe Theresa May has been a failure as leader of our party, which she now threatens to destroy.
"Hers is a classic example of hubris – and after hubris, comes nemesis."
Meanwhile, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who is also a member of the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group, told the BBC's PoliticsLive that he had also submitted a letter to Sir Graham.
The North West Leicestershire MP said: "I’m also aware that a large number of Conservative members of the Parliamentary party have written letters to him saying Theresa May needs to go, and go now."
He added that “more than a dozen” Tory colleagues who had backed Mrs May in December’s ballot had since told him that they wished they had voted the other way but that "it’s too late now."
The Brexiteer plot however was blasted by Tory peer Lord Finkelstein, who rejected the idea that a change of leadership would change the direction of Brexit.
“You can’t get no-deal through Parliament because 400 MPs are against it. It doesn’t matter who the leader of the Conservative party is, this is not about Theresa May," he said.
“Getting rid of her would make no difference and it’s failing to appreciate that, that means you’ve overplayed your hand over and over again, and you’re going to end up possibly with a second referendum on a soft Brexit, and possibly a Corbyn government thrown in.
“The tactical stupidity of this is breathtaking.”