Theresa May braced for showdown with senior Tories demanding she gives departure date

Posted On: 
16th May 2019

Theresa May will hold talks with senior Conservatives today amid mounting calls for her to spell when she plans to quit as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has promised to step aside once the first phase of Brexit negotiations is complete.
Credit: 
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The Tory leader will meet the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives at lunchtime, just weeks after the group narrowly avoided changing the party's leadership rules to make it easier to oust her.

Under the current set-up, Mrs May cannot be challenged again until December after surviving a party confidence vote before Christmas last year.

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But the Tory grandees have previously considered changing the date for a fresh challenge to just six months - and there are renewed calls for the Prime Minister to spell out her exit date or face a shake-up.

A move to curb the timeline for a challenge could give the Prime Minister until just June 12 before MPs are able to again try to remove her.

The meeting comes after Mrs May confirmed that she would press ahead with a Commons vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill next month, regardless of the outcome of talks between Labour and the Government.

According to The Telegraph, the 1922 executive will hold a private meeting straight after Thursday's discussions with Mrs May, with a source saying: "The approach we take will depend on what happens. We will meet immediately after we have seen her."

Last month the committee voted 9-7 not to change the party's rules, but the paper reports that some of those who sided against the overhaul are now mulling a rethink.

One member of the executive told PoliticsHome "emotions were running high" when they met to discuss the situation on Wednesday afternoon.

1922 committee treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who last month voted against a change, told the Press Association: "It would be infinitely preferable if she set a date rather than us force her out.

"It's better that she does it than we have a vote of confidence.

"What I would like to see is her set out a timetable to trigger a leadership contest."

But in a sign of growing Tory disunity, The Sun reports that MPs loyal to Mrs May could move against the executive itself if the team of senior Conservatives opts to change the rules to allow an early challenge to her.

One told the paper: "If the executive goes ahead with a rule change now, it will be the height of irresponsibility at this time of national crisis as well as destabilise the leadership forever more.

“So we will call a confidence vote in them, which all colleagues are within their full rights to do.”