Tory MPs give Theresa May stay of execution as Cabinet ministers move against her
Theresa May has been granted a stay of execution by Tory MPs as Cabinet ministers began moves to remove her from office.
At the end of a dramatic day in Westminster, the ruling executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives decided not to change the party rulebook to make a vote of no confidence in her possible next month.
Insttead, committee chairman Sir Graham Brady will meet with the Prime Minister on Friday - the day after European elections when the Tories are expected to do badly - to find out whether she is ready to resign.
Senior sources told PoliticsHome that if she refuses, the rule change will go ahead and Mrs May will be gone in weeks.
Meanwhile, Cabinet ministers David Mundell, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt were all snubbed by the PM after asking to see her to make clear their unhappiness with the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
In particular, they are furious that the legislation - which needs to be passed to ratify Brexit - contains a clause giving MPs a vote on whether there should be a second EU referendum.
Sources close to Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said the move was already being "exploited" by the SNP to push the case for another independence referendum, which the UK government opposes.
PoliticsHome understands that Downing Street cancelled a meeting with one of the three Cabinet ministers with just 10 minutes notice.
A senior Tory MP said: "She’s no longer playing by the rules, so the desire to change the leadership rules will become stronger."
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith: "The sofa is up against the door, she’s not leaving."
Earlier, Mrs May had begged MPs not to “duck” their duty on Brexit by voting down the WAB.
She told the Commons: "If we are going to deliver Brexit in this Parliament we are going to have to pass a Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
"And we will not do so without holding votes on the issues that have divided us the most – that includes votes on customs arrangements and on a second referendum."
The Prime Minister added: "We can pretend otherwise and carry on arguing and getting nowhere. But in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them."
The 1922 Committee executive met at 4pm for an hour to consider the proposed rule change, which would allow Tory leaders to face votes of no confidence every six months, rather than a year.
A meeting of the full committee began at 5pm, but was adjourned within minutes when it emerged Chief Whip Julian Smith was to meet the executive at 5.30.
His appearance only lasted two minutes, during which time he told them the Prime Minister would not be resigning, before the executive held another 40 minutes of talks.
Tory peers and MPs, who had been waiting outside in the stifling committee corridor, were then allowed into the room to be told that Mrs May was being given 48 hours' grace so she could campign in the European elections on Thursday.
One furious MP later said: "They are utterly spineless, they've let her off the hook yet again."
Leading Brexiteer Steve Baker MP said the results of the European election would determine how long the Prime Minister remains in office.
"Peope are rather impatient, but equally most colleagues do appreciate that this is a very difficult time for everybody on the executive and that this is the eve of poll on a national election," he said.
Sir Graham Brady said: "As you know by now I'll be meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday following her campaigning in the European elections tomorrow. And following that meeting I will be consulting with the 1922 executive."