Philip May is being urged to step in and make Theresa May accept the ‘reality’ that her premiership is over today – after she dramatically pulled the vote on her hated Brexit Bill.
Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith said Mr May should tell the PM neither the party nor Cabinet had any confidence in her any more.
The appeal comes as Mrs May’s job is hanging by a thread after a massive Tory mutiny that saw Andrea Leadsom resign last night – and left the government’s plans in tatters.
MPs have been told the legislation will not now be published tomorrow and the second reading will not take place in the first week of June – despite Mrs May previously laying out the timetable.
The humiliating retreat is the clearest sign yet that Mrs May’s time in power is drawing to a close, after fury at her compromise offer for the Commons to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum.
Half-a-dozen other senior ministers – including Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Penny Mordaunt – looked ready to follow Mrs Leadsom out the door if she had not changed course.
Mr Duncan Smith stepped up the attack on the premier today by suggesting her husband – reputed to be her rock – must offer her some tough advice.
‘The only person closest to her is clearly her husband, and I think somebody has to say look, nobody likes this, this is horrific what’s going on at the moment,’ he told TalkRadio.
‘Politics is a nasty, sometimes brutal, ghastly business. But the reality is that she has no confidence any longer, not just in her party but in the Cabinet as well.
‘So the best thing for her and the best thing for everybody else is to break away and say its time to find a new leader, somebody who campaigned for Brexit, who is committed to Brexit in any form.’
The meltdown comes as millions of British voters are heading to the polls to give their verdict on Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit as her own MEPs warned they will all be wiped out spelling ‘the end of our party’.
Mrs May tried to put a brave face on the situation this afternoon as she voted with Philip in Sonning, Berkshire.
But the Tories are predicted to get 12 per cent of the vote in the European elections – 23 points behind Nigel Farage Brexit Party who are on 35 per cent.
The PM’s party is also trailing Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the final opinion poll before today’s election has revealed, but they may just edge out the Greens. Some polls showed the Tories could win just seven per cent of the vote – their lowest share in history.
In a sign of the depth of Tory divisions, digital minister Margot James complained that the PM was being ‘hounded out’ by Brexiteers. Mrs May has also moved to fill the gaps in her team, promoting Treasury minister Mel Stride – an ally of Michael Gove – to fill the Cabinet job vacated by Mrs Leadsom.
The premier is now facing overwhelming pressure to fall on her sword tomorrow, when she meets the chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady.
If she refuses to set a timetable for standing down as leader the committee will almost certainly change the rules to allow a fresh no-confidence vote – in which she would be doomed to defeat.
Philip May, pictured right voting with the PM in Sonning today, is being urged to step in and make his wife accept the ‘reality’ that her premiership is over – after she dramatically pulled the vote on her hated Brexit Bill
A jubilant Nigel Farage outside a polling station in Kent today with his Brexit Party apparently racing towards victory
Andrea Leadsom appeared to seal Mrs May’s fate last night by resigning from the Cabinet in protest at the Brexit Bill
Tories have predicted the party’s candidates will be wiped out in today’s Euro elections with North West MEP Sajjad Karim warning today his party ‘will live to regret’ allowing people to vote today by failing to deliver Brexit, and said candidates had been cut adrift.
He said: ‘We will be annihilated, the Conservative party will be annihilated. It was pretty much a case of sending in the foot soldiers and then the generals abandoned the battlefield. It was quite clear those that were supposed to be backing us up on the battlefield all abandoned as well, and the candidates were all left there looking for where the next round of bullets was going to come from’.
MPs’ secret poll on getting rid of May
The powerful 1922 committee last night held a secret ballot on whether to force Theresa May out of No 10, the Mail understands.
The executive of ‘men in grey suits’ voted to decide whether to change the rules and allow a second no confidence vote in the Prime Minister within six months.
Under existing rules she would be safe for a year, but the committee has been under pressure from MPs to allow a move against her.
The votes will only be opened if Mrs May refuses to quit tomorrow after the European elections.
She has agreed to meet Sir Graham Brady, the committee’s chairman to discuss her future and MPs will only open the ballots and consider a rule change if she fails to go.
One source said Sir Graham argued against changing the rules during the meeting of the 18-strong executive. He said it would set a precedent which could undermine future leaders.
Current rules say a Tory leader can only face one no-confidence ballot of MPs in any 12-month period.
A ballot is triggered if 15 per cent of MPs write letters to the 1922 committee chairman. The leader must then win a simple majority of MPs in a secret ballot to stay in office.
In December an attempted coup by Eurosceptic Tory MPs fell short with 117 votes against and 200 in favour.
But MPs opposed to Mrs May have since argued for a change in the rules so she could be forced from office with another vote within six months.
And in private messages, fellow Brussels Tory Daniel Hannan said the Conservatives will be left with no MEPs as voters flock to Nigel Farage’s new party.
He also warned that the Tories faced ‘the end of our party’ and the election of a Corbyn government.
Mr Hannan, who represents the South East of England, made the comments on a WhatsApp group for Tory activists. ‘I am expecting us to end up with zero MEPs,’ he wrote.
‘Sadly it will give Corbyn unstoppable momentum and this, paradoxically, will derail Brexit. Funny old world.’ In separate messages, he suggested the Tories could slip below 10 per cent when votes are counted.
‘If our members stay away, or vote for another party, we may well slip below 10 per cent – a level from which no party bounces back.
‘We’re looking, not just at a Corbyn government, but at the end of our party as a viable movement.’
Mrs May’s grip on power is failing following a dramatic Cabinet revolt yesterday where ministers savaged her concessions to Labour over Brexit.
Mrs Leadsom piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet last night.
In a parting blast, the Commons Leader said she could not stomach the latest version of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, with its offer of a second referendum.
Other ministers are said to be ready to go too if the Prime Minister tries to cling to power after today’s European elections.
Mr May is reputed to be his wife’s closest adviser, and has been steeped in local politics in her Maidenhead constituency.
Government whip Mark Spencer, filling in for the departed Commons leader today, told MPs that the Bill was being pulled.
It had been due to be published tomorrow, then debated and voted on in the week of June 3, immediately after the half-term recess.
Mr Spencer said: ‘We will update the House on the publication and introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess.’
Tory backbenchers were in uproar over Mrs May’s decision to seek Labour support in the hope of getting her deal through the House of Commons at the fourth attempt.
At one stage yesterday, some aides believed she was on the verge of quitting on the spot – and even started preparations for a resignation statement.
But chief whip Julian Smith later told the 1922 Committee that Mrs May intended to campaign in today’s elections and would instead meet Sir Graham tomorrow.
Sources said meetings with senior ministers were postponed because Mrs May was having her regular audience with the Queen, who she was expected to brief on her intentions.
Conservative MPs were in uproar over the Prime Minister’s decision to seek Labour support in the hope of getting her deal through the House of Commons at the fourth attempt.
Outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and his wife Rachel Smith voting in Twickenham today
Labour party Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves after voting in the European Parliament election at a polling station in Islington
Monks Father Mark Caira (front) and Father Leonard Norman from the Sancta Maria Abbey after casting their vote in the European Parliamentary election at Garvald Village Hall, Garvald, East Lothian
Conservative MP and leadership hopeful Boris Johnson left his London home this morning (pictured) amid the turmoil
A YouGov poll for the Times showed both main parties being hammered when the results are published on Sunday.
It put the Brexit Party on 37 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 19 per cent and Labour on 13 per cent, just one point ahead of the Greens. The Tories were in fifth on seven points, just four ahead of Ukip. In a sign of ebbing support among activists, the ConHome website urged Tory supporters to abstain rather than vote for the party unless Theresa May quits ahead of polling today.
A former civil service boss was accused of ditching Whitehall impartiality by announcing he would be voting for the Lib Dems today.
Lord Gus O’Donnell said it was his ‘civic duty’ to vote for the most consistently Remain party.
The former cabinet secretary rote in the Times that the clearest choice was ‘voting Liberal Democrat in England, so that’s what I will do’. He said: ‘I would urge all those who support Remain to do the same. It feels very strange to be specifying a preference for a particular party.
‘However, as a crossbencher in the Lords, and faced with a decision that will affect generations to come, I believe it is my civic duty to vote and there is now no reason not to be clear about how I use this precious power that democracies bestow on their citizens.’
Tory MP Neil O’Brien said: ‘The trend of former senior civil servants getting involved in politics and particularly declaring their allegiance is going to be very bad for the civil service longer term.’
Yesterday another Conservative peer was suspended from the party whip for pledging to vote Liberal Democrat in the European elections.
Lord Cooper, the founder of pollster Populus who was David Cameron’s director of strategy in Downing Street, received the punishment two days after it was imposed on former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine.
He tweeted: ‘I have come to the same conclusion as Michael Heseltine, for exactly the same reasons – and will be voting Lib Dem in Thursday’s European parliament elections.’
Lord Cooper was subsequently told by his chief whip that ‘endorsing the candidates of another party is not compatible with taking the Conservative whip’.
Labour peer Lord Cashman said he had quit his party to vote Lib Dem.
The former EastEnders actor said: ‘I can’t trust Jeremy Corbyn or the people around him on the defining issue in postwar Britain, so on Thursday I will not be voting for the Labour Party. As Matthew Parris said, I am not a Liberal Democrat, but I support their absolute consistency. Voting Lib Dem in the EU elections.’
Later he wrote: ‘I think I’ve just resigned from the Labour party by declaring that I will support the Liberal Democrats in the European elections.’
Tories braced for a summer leadership campaign: who are the frontrunners to replace Theresa May?
A huge field of candidates is expected to run to replace Theresa May.
While as many as 25 could run they will swiftly be whittled down into a workable number as MPs show their allegiances and plot to get their chosen man or woman into Downing Street.
Here we look at the main runners and riders, with their odds with Ladbrokes and how they voted in the 2016 referendum:
Boris Johnson: The long-running thorn in May’s side who has recently had a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover
Boris Johnson has undergone a prime ministerial makeover as Theresa May’s days appeared increasingly numbered
- Former foreign secretary and mayor of London
- Voted leave and has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer
- As likely to make headlines over his private life
- Has recently lost a lot of weight and smartened up his appearance
- Leadership odds 6/4
The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July and has been tacitly campaigning for the leadership ever since. He finally went public last week to confirm he would run.
Never far from the limelight the father-of-four recently split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds, 20 years his junior.
As an increasingly hawkish Brexiteer who says we should not be afraid of leaving without a deal he is hugely popular with the party faithful.
At the start of the year he underwent what might be deemed a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover, losing weight and taming his unruly mop of blonde hair.
Popular with the rank-and-file membership he has less fans in the parliamentary party and may face a concerted campaign to block his succession. Received the surprise backing of Johnny Mercer last night.
Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who quit rather than back Mrs May’s deal
Dominic Raab has become a cheerleader for a hard Brexit since stepping down as Brexit secretary in November
- Shortlived Brexit secretary last year, replacing David Davis in the hot seat
- But walked in November over terms agreed by PM
- Voted for Brexit in 2016
- Leadership odds 4/1
Mr Raab, 45, is another Vote Leave member who became Brexit secretary after David Davis quit alongside Mr Johnson last July over the Chequers plan.
But he lasted just a matter of months before he too jumped ship, saying he could not accept the terms of the deal done by the Prime Minister.
Like Mr Johnson and Mr Davis he has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer, sharing a platform with the DUP’s Arlene Foster and suggesting we should not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit.
The Esher and Walton MP’s decision to quit in November, boosted his popularity with party members but he lacks the wider popular appeal of Mr Johnson.
And like Mr Johnson he might benefit from having quit the Cabinet at an earlier stage and dissociating himself with the dying days of the May administration.
His odds have shortened as he is seen as possibly a more palatable alternative Brexiteer to Boris by MPs seeking to block Mr Johnson’s run.
He recently posed for a glossy photoshoot with wife Erika at their Surrey home, seen as a sign he will run.
Andrea Leadsom: May’s former rival who finally decided she could take no more
Ms Leadsom (pictured today) quit the cabinet yesterday. She is a Brexiteer who frequently clashed with Speaker John Bercow
- The Commons’ Leader challenged May in 2016
- Voted for Brexit
- Hosted Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ plot last year
- Increasingly outspoken Brexiteer
- Leadership odds 16/1
The former Commons’ Leader piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet last night.
In a parting blast, the Commons Leader said she could not stomach the latest version of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, with its offer of a second referendum.
It was the final act by an MP whose departure had seemingly been on the cards for months.
Mrs Leadsom, a mother of three, stood against Mrs May for the party leadership in 2016 before conceding defeat before it was put to a vote of MPs.
As collective responsibility largely broke down among ministers she became an increasingly vocal and clear Brexiteer voice in the Cabinet along line similar lines to Mr Johnson and Mr Raab.
She was the host of a Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ in Parliament that included Michael Gove and Liz Truss as the vying wings of the Cabinet plotted to shape the Brexit deal they wanted.
In her role as Commons’ Leader she frequently clashes with Speaker John Bercow over issues including bullying in Parliament.
It is something that will do her no harm among the Tory backbenches where he is widely loathed.
Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer unity candidate who wants to heal the party
Jeremy Hunt, a born-again Brexiteer after supporting Remain, toured Africa last month with wife Lucia
- The Foreign Secretary voted Remain
- But has become an increasingly vocal Brexiteer
- Former health secretary backs May’s deal
- Has approached ministers about running as a unity candidate
- Leadership odds 10/1
The Foreign Secretary who has undergone a Damascene conversion to the Brexit cause and is seen as a safe if uninspiring pair of hands.
The 52-year-old South West Surrey MP has reportedly been selling himself to colleagues as a unity candidate who can bring together the fractious Tory factions into something approaching a cohesive party.
A long-serving health secretary, the father-of three replaced Mr Johnson as the UK’s top diplomat and has won some plaudits over issues like the imprisonment of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.
But critics point to tub-thumpingly comparing the EU to the USSR at the party conference last year – which was very badly received in Brussels – and a gaffe in which he referred to his Chinese wife as ‘Japanese’ as a reception in China.
Last month he went on a tour of Africa in which his Chinese wife Lucia made a major appearance, after he gaffed by forgetting her nationality.
Last week he called for a ‘decisive’ hike in defence spending to see off the rising threat from Russia and China – in a speech seen as a clear signal of his leadership ambitions.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Mansion House in the City of London, he said the UK’s hard power must be strengthened, with billions more spent on new capabilities to tackle drones and cyber attacks.
Michael Gove: The boomerang cabinet minister with a Machiavellian reputation
Michael Gove has made a remarkable political comeback after being sacked by Theresa May in 2016
- Leading Vote Leave figure in 2016 who now backs PM’s Brexit deal
- Former journalist, 51, who stood for leadership in 2016
- Was sacked as education minister by Theresa May
- Later returned as Environment Minister
- Leadship odds 12/1
A Brexiteer with a Machiavellian reputation after the 2016 leadership campaign in which he first supported Boris Johnson for the leadership and then stood against him, to their mutual disadvantage.
The former education secretary – sacked by Mrs May – was rehabilitated to become a right-on environment secretary – complete with reusable coffee cups and a strong line on food standards after Brexit.
Despite being a former lead figure in the Vote Leave campaign alongside Mr Johnson the former journalist and MP for Surrey Heath has swung behind Mrs May’s Brexit deal – which might count against him.
But while he noisily supports the deal – he views the alternatives as worse – the father-of-two – married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine – is quieter when it comes to supporting the Prime Minister and practically mute when it comes to her future.
Seen as one of the Cabinet’s strongest political thinkers and having stood once it is unthinkable that he would not stand again.
But like many others he has yet to publicly declare his candidacy.
If he did it would again pitch him pitched against Mr Johnson in a battle for Brexiteer votes.
Penny Mordaunt: The highly regarded Brexiteer promoted to take on defence
Ms Mordaunt is an outsider for the leadership but is highly thought of in Brexiteer groups
- The MP for Portsmouth North is a Royal Navy reservist
- Highly regarded in Brexiteer circles
- She has been consistently tipped to quit over Brexit but remains in the Cabinet
- Once appeared in a swimsuit in a reality TV show
- Leadership odds 20/1
The new Defence Secretary – the first woman ever to hold the post – is highly regarded in Brexiteer circles.
The Royal Navy reservist, 46, carved out a niche at International Development with some eye-catching suggests about changing how the UK spends disperses aid cash.
She has become an increasingly serious politician after initially being seen as lighthearted when she appeared in a swimsuit in ITV reality TV show Splash!
She was promoted earlier this month to replace Gavin Williamson when he was sacked for leaking details from a confidential meeting about Huawei.
Over the preceding few months she was at the heart of persistent rumours that she would be the next Brexit-supporting minister out the door over Brexit.
She has yet to announce she is running but last month she backed a thinktank report saying the party needed to attract new voters.
She said the party needed to ‘act swiftly’ to win over the younger generations who were turning away from the centre-Right in ‘unprecedented’ numbers.
Yesterday, after other Cabinet Brexiteers including Andrea Leadsom were notable by their absence during Prime Minister’s Questions, she remained at her post. It remains to be seen whether this loyalty will count for or against her.
Sajid Javid: Remainer star who has run into trouble over knife crime and refugees
Sajid Javid has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats
- The most senior cabinet contender
- Voted Remain but wants to see Brexit delivered
- Faced criticism as Home Secretary
- But has taken a hard line on Shamima Begum case
- Leadership odds 12/1
The Home Secretary, a Remainer who wants to see Brexit delivered, was the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet to replace Mrs May.
After replacing Amber Rudd last year he consciously put clear ground between himself and the Prime Minister on issues like caps on skilled migrants after Brexit.
But his credentials have taken a hit recently. He finds himself facing ongoing criticism of his handling of the knife crime crisis affecting UK cities, which sparked a Cabinet row over funding for police.
He also lost face over his handling of the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel in January, being seen to move slowly in realising the scale of the problem.
But more recently the 49-year-old Bromsgove MP has made a serious of hardline decision designed to go down well with Tory voters.
Most notably they have included moving to deprive London teenager turned Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 19, of her British citizenship, after she was discovered among former Islamic State members in a Syrian refugee camp.
Matt Hancock: Waffle-loving health secretary who wants Tories to choose a younger leader
Mr Hancock took stroopwafels in for Cabinet the day after he was pulled up for eating them on television
- The youngest front-runner at 40
- A Remainer who now backs Theresa May’s Brexit deal
- He wants the party to look to the future and attract younger voters
- Leadership odds 25/1
The Health Secretary is, like his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, seen as something of a unity candidate.
The 40-year-old father of three is seen as a safe pair of hands despite a few teething problems in his latest Cabinet role.
Last year he was accused of breaking ethics rules after he praised a private health firm app in a newspaper article sponsored by its maker.
But he has since make some hard-hitting interventions in ares like the impact of social media on health.
Last month he joined Ms Mordaunt in backing the Generation Why? report showing that the Tories needed to become more relevant to younger voters.
He called on the party to change its ‘tone’ towards modern Britain or face Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, in a speech widely seen as setting out his leadership credentials.
This week he showed his human side by unashamedly chomping calorific stroopwafels before a TV broadcast, saying he people should enjoy things in moderation.
Rory Stewart: Remainer rising star and friend of royals who is not short of confidence
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married
- Penrith MP, 46, is a former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex
- Old Etonian ex-soldier worked for Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wale sin Afghanistan
- Voted for Remain and still backs a soft Brexit
- Leadership odds 25/1
The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy almost as soon as he was promoted to the Cabinet.
He stepped up to International Development Secretary earlier this month to replace Ms Mordaunt and days later declared he will run for the Tory leadership.
The Theresa May loyalist praised the PM for her ‘courageous effort’ to pass her Brexit deal but admitted he would throw his hat in the ring when she steps down.
Urging his party not to ‘try to outdo Nigel Farage’, the development secretary said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.
The Old Etonian former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex previously worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wales in Afghanistan.
He has also written several books about walking.
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married.
Seen as highly intelligent his staunch Remainer and soft Brexit credentials look likely to count against him in a race set to be dominated by the Brexiteer wing of the party.
Esther McVey: Former TV presenter and minister who quit Government over Brexit
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47
- The 51-year-old was Work and Pensions Secretary until quitting in November
- She was a presenter on GMTV before entering politics
- Is engaged to fellow Tory MP Philip Davies
- This week launched a ‘blue collar Conservatism’ project
- Leadership odds 50/1
The former Work and Pensions Secretary declared her leadership bid last month and has set out a stall as a right-wing blue-collar candidate from a working class Liverpudlian background.
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47, having previously had a romance with ex-minister Ed Vaizey. She has no children.
This week she set out her leadership pitch by calling for the party to use £7billion of foreign aid cash on buckling British police forces and schools.
Launching a ‘blue collar conservatism’ campaign the Brexiteer MP, 51, said her party had ‘lost the trust’ of working people by failing to leave the EU already and must pursue ‘radical conservative agendas’ to win it back’.
She said that keeping cash in the UK that is currently sent abroad would allow an increase of £4billion in spending on schools and £3billion for police, which are both demanding more money.
And she declined to rule out doing a post-election deal with Nigel Farage – but said that if the Tories got the UK out it would mean that his Brexit Party would have no reason to exist.
Speaking in Westminster she reiterated her call for the next party leader to be ‘someone who believes in Brexit’ – a dig at Mrs May, who supported the Remain campaign in 2016.
So what will happen if Theresa goes? May would limp on as ‘zombie Prime Minister’ while Tories choose new leader
Theresa May appears to have potentially just hours left as Conservative leader as her authority and Government crumbles around her amid a mass mutiny.
After the Prime Minister was rocked by the departure of Commons’ Leader Andrea Leadsom last night she pulled out of a plan to hold a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the first week of June.
In little more than 24 hours the besieged leader is due to hold a showdown with backbench kingmaker Sir Graham Brady in which she is expected to announce her resignation.
The mutiny on the green benches has been growing like a volcano over recent weeks but the Prime Minister has so far resisted all efforts to pry her immediately from the leadership.
However after postponing the WAB vote to see off an immediate rebellion by her Cabinet, she appears to be almost out of options.
That would pave the way for a summer leadership battle between a wide field of ambitious MPs currently led by Boris Johnson – with the victor having to cobble together Brexit before the October 31 deadline.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW?
The Prime Minister will hold the latest – and possibly the last – in a series of meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, whose membership is made up of all backbench Tory MPs.
If she has not already resigned, she is expected to be presented with a simple choice by the Altrincham and Sale West MP – resign or be removed.
Mrs May has clung on thus far but even she seems to finally have become politically hamstrung.
The executive of the 1922 Committee held a vote last night on whether to alter party rules to allow a no-confidence vote to be held in her leadership immediately.
HOW CAN THEY REMOVE HER?
Wednesday night’s vote was a bizarre form of blackmail aimed squarely at the Prime Minister besieged in Number 10.
She faced a party no-confidence vote in December, winning against the odds by 83 votes. Under current party rules designed to maintain stability she cannot face another such vote until December this year.
But such is the scale of the mutiny that MPs including influential 1922 lieutenants like Nigel Evans have pushed for the rules to be relaxed. Otherwise May could remain at the helm of a zombie government for months.
The ballot papers have not been counted but instead placed in an envelope. If Theresa May has not resigned by tomorrow – or does not say she is resigning at the meeting with Sir Graham, it will be opened.
The implicit threat to Mrs May is: fall on your sword or we shall wield it for you.
The 1922 executive has been resisting calls to alter the rules for fear of setting a destabilising precedent but the wave of anger seems likely to mean it is a credible threat.
IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO REMOVE HER?
Even at this late stage there is no other easy way for the mutineers to make her walk the plank at a time not of her own choosing.
But they have some options:
- The Cabinet can walk out en masse: A large-scale resignation by the Prime minister’s senior ministers – or the threat of one – would leave her facing being unable to run the Government. While she could in theory attempt to replace them and carry on, if other Tories refuse to step up, she would be left with little choice but to resign.
- She can voluntarily resign: This is the ‘men in grey suits’ option. If the Prime Minister runs out of options or is told enough times by enough influential figures in the Tory party that she cannot continue she may choose to quit voluntarily. But she has so far been impervious to those clarion calls coming at her from all sides.
HOW WOULD A NO CONFIDENCE VOTE WORK?
Calling votes of no confidence is the responsibility of Sir Graham. He Brady is obliged to call a vote if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to him calling for one – currently 48 MPs.
The process is secret and only Sir Graham knows how many letters he has received.
Before December’s vote he revealed that he did not even tell his own wife how many letters he had received.
The amount of time it takes to hit the magic number can be slightly complicated by the fact that MPs are able to withdraw their letters after they send them in, meaning the umber can go down as well as up.
But that seems unlikely in the current climate within the party.
Once triggered, the ballot can be organised very quickly and is a simple yes or no question of whether she should remain leader. The vote and the result announcement can be held on the same day.
Mrs May, pictured leaving Parliament today, is believed to have only days left as leader of the Conservatives
The Tories on course for a European elections drubbing at the hands of Nigel Farage (pictured voting in Kent today) and his new Brexit Party
IF SHE GOES, WHEN WILL SHE GO?
Pressure is mounting on Theresa May to step down immediately. Her attempt to woo MPs with the WAB has instead poured petrol on the simmering fire burning among her own MPs.
There is also the small matter of the European Elections today, in which the Conservatives are expected to suffer a cataclysmic defeat, mainly at the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
The WAB appears to have been kicked into the long grass after the rebellion and in any case, a defeat would be the fourth time her deal with the EU has been rejected by MPs – and Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay has admitted the package would then be ‘dead’.
Which date she sets – if any – could spark yet another row if her opponents feel it is not swift enough.
If the situation was not fraught enough, the PM must also contend with the arrival of Donald Trump for a long-awaited and controversial three-day State Visit at the start of June. He has not been shy of voicing his disapproval for her Brexit deal, and is widely expected to throw some grenades into the debate.
He could be placed in the bizarre position of meeting Theresa May while she is Prime Minister but not leader of the Conservatives.
Up to now Theresa May and Number 10 have been insisting – publicly at least – that she wanted to get a Brexit deal done before stepping down.
That would set her up to leave perhaps in the autumn. But that now seems an almost impossible task as calls for her resignation become deafening.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO BREXIT?
Britain still has until October 31 to get Brexit sorted and leave under the current terms of the agreement with the EU.
But if Mrs May does step down her successor will face the same problem she does: MPs will not pass the current deal.
So they will be faced with a looming deadline and several choices to make:
- They can try to go back to Brussels to renegotiate – which the EU has so far flatly refused to do.
- They can try again to get the current deal or similar through Parliament – which appears almost impossible.
- They can swing the country behind a No Deal Brexit – which MPs would try to block but which is still the default if no plan is voted into law
- They can revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU – which would probably destroy the Conservative Party
- They can call a general election and hope that the current hung parliament is replaced with a majority that allows them to achieve one of the above outcomes.
HOW IS THE NEW LEADER CHOSEN?
If the leader is ousted, they typically remain as Prime Minister until a successor is appointed and ready to be confirmed by the Queen.
Any MP – apart from the ousted leader – is eligible to stand in the subsequent contest.
Conservative MPs hold a series of ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to two, with the lowest placed candidate dropping out in each round.
The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election.
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving home today) is considered the front runner to succeed Mrs May, but historically Tory contests have thrown up surprises
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also among the frontrunners to replace Theresa May as party leader
WHO IS THE NEW LEADER GOING TO BE?
The current frontrunners are Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Johnson is considered the front runner to take the top job, but historically such contests have thrown up surprises.
Other leading contenders include Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Penny Mordaunt.
There is also the matter of a ‘stop Boris’ campaign among MPs to stop him taking over, which means it may be left to someone else to deal with Brexit.
HOW LONG WILL THE LEADERSHIP VOTE TAKE?
Party chiefs hope that the first stage can be completed within a few weeks. The run-off could then either be rushed through in July, or take place over the summer parliamentary recess.
But opinion is divided over how long the leadership battle could take.
Ex-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has set himself up as a right-wing Brexiteer candidate for the leadership
Lats year Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard suggested it could be done in just two weeks, suggesting that Mrs May’s replacement could be in place by July.
He suggested it would take ‘four days in the Commons and six days with the membership’ and ‘does not need to be an overly long process’.
Others believe it could take longer.
WHAT IS THE RUSH?
The Tories wants to have a new leader in place before the party conference at the end of September and the by-then looming October 31 Brexit deadline.
The Tory gathering in Manchester this autumn will be the natural time for a new leader to take the stage and try to unite the fractured party.
Assuming no way has been found to force a Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament by this point, they will need to spell out how they intend to approach the Brexit process.
Victory for a harder-line Brexiteer such as Mr Johnson could see the party vow to leave the EU in a matter of weeks, with or without a deal.
They will also need to consider whether such a policy can be pushed through the Commons with the current batch of MPs – or whether a bold move like a general election has become unavoidable.
Visions of Maggie: How images of bleary-eyed Theresa May being driven from Downing Street recall the final days of Mrs Thatcher’s 11-year reign
Pictures of a bleary-eyed Theresa May being driven away from Parliament last night bore an uncanny resemblance to those memorable shots of Margaret Thatcher on her last political legs in late 1989.
The then-Mrs Thatcher was seen in tears in the back of her car after a merciless string of Cabinet resignations.
The Daily Mail’s headline on November 22 – six days before she announced her departure – read ‘Battling On’, as she desperately scrambled for her colleagues’ support as they filed in to Downing Street to see her one by one.
But with her Deputy Geoffrey Howe and Chancellor Nigel Lawson gone and the second-lowest ratings of any post-war Prime Minister, it was only a matter of time before the Iron Lady crumbled. She resigned on November 28.
The final week of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership are strikingly similar to the horrific few days Mrs May has had.
She too faced a key ministerial resignation after Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said she could no longer support her approach to Brexit.
Other ministers are said to be ready to go too if the Prime Minister tries to cling to power after today’s European elections.
A bleary-eyed Theresa May leaves Parliament in the back of her car after a brutal day in Westminster yesterday
It is understood that Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and David Mundell will use ministerial meetings with Mrs May today to warn that they also consider the Withdrawal Agreement Bill unacceptable in its current form.
But she refused to see any of them on Wednesday afternoon, leading to claims she has ‘holed’ herself up in Downing Street amid the full-scale Brexit revolt.
Similarly Mrs Thatcher initially promised she would ‘fight on’ and ‘fight on to win’, despite failing to secure the 15 per cent majority she needed in the Tory leadership vote.
But she was forced to face facts when her own party demanded she withdraw.
Michael Heseltine’s Tory leadership bid, which was eventually overshadowed by John Major, was also based on profound differences over Europe.
This week Brexiteer Boris Johnson emerged as the favourite to replace the PM, who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum.
And with Andrea Leadsom effectively launching her campaign for the top job yesterday, today is likely to be the day we find out just when Mrs May plans to step down.
The Daily Mail front page from November 22 – six days before she resigned as Prime Minister – shows Margaret Thatcher in tears in the back of her car, much like Mrs May last night
Key Brexiteers were glaringly absent from PMQs yesterday amid claims ‘secret meetings’ are taking place to oust Mrs May
EU faces the populists: Britain and the Netherlands are the first to go to the polls as nationalist movements go up against pro-Brussels parties
Polls opened in the UK and Netherlands on Thursday as voting got underway to decide the make-up of the European Parliament.
Ballots will be cast across the 28-nation bloc until Sunday, pitting pro-European centrists against a rising tide of populism and Euroskepticism.
It comes against the backdrop of Britain attempting to negotiate its way out of the trading bloc following the Brexit referendum.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom party and a nationalist figurehead, casts his vote in The Hague on Thursday as voting gets underway in the EU elections
Polling stations opened in the Netherlands (Amsterdam airport, pictured) and the UK on Thursday, and will continue across all 28 member states until Sunday
Voters are being asked to chose MEPs that make up the EU’s 751-member parliament in what is being billed as an election to decide Europe’s future
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom party and one of Europe’s most outspoken nationalists, cast his ballot at The Hauge on Thursday morning.
Hours earlier, he had attended a rally alongside other populist, nationalist and far-right leaders in Milan where they issued a cross-continental rallying cry against the European Union.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s Lega Nord party; Marine Le Pen, of France’s National Rally; and Jorg Meuthen, representing Germany’s far-right AfD, also attended along with leaders of six other nationalist parties.
Aside from Salvini, who serves as the deputy Prime Minister of Italy in a coalition, all of their parties have failed to gain power at domestic elections.
However, big wins at the European Elections – where proportional voting systems often favour smaller, less-established parties – would send a message to Brussels about the direction the continent is heading in.
The pro-European bloc is being led by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron, who insist that unity is the best buffer against shifting economic and security interests of an emerging new world order.
Hoping to topple the European old-guard are a coalition of nationalist, populist and far-right leaders including Dutch Geert Wilders (left), Italy’s Matteo Salvini (centre), Germany’s Jorg Meuthen (second right) and France’s Marine Le Pen (far right)
French President Emmanuel Macron has pitched himself as Europe’s foremost pro-EU politician, after Angela Merkel announced her intention to step down
In the Netherlands (pictured) eccentric populist Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party is running neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centrist VVD party
While populist parties have largely failed to gain power in domestic elections, a strong showing in European elections would send a signal about where the continent is headed
President Macron says the challenge is ‘not to cede to a coalition of destruction and disintegration’ that will seek to dismantle EU unity built up over the past six decades.
On Thursday morning, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn released a message with a warning that ‘the far-right is on the rise’ and adding that ‘the actions we take now will have huge consequences for our future.’
Voters across Europe elect a total of 751 lawmakers, although that number is set to drop to 705 when the UK leaves the EU.
The Dutch make up just 26 currently and 29 after Brexit.
The UK has 73 European lawmakers, who would lose their jobs when their country completes its messy divorce from the EU.
Results of the four days of voting will not be officially released until Sunday night, but Dutch national broadcaster NOS will publish an exit poll after ballot boxes close Thursday night.
The Netherlands could provide a snapshot of what is to come. Polls show the right-wing populist Forum for Democracy led by charismatic intellectual Thierry Baudet running neck-and-neck with the center-right VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
While the country, an affluent trading nation, profits from the EU’s open borders and single market, it also is a major contributor to EU coffers.
Britain was not scheduled to take part in the elections, having announced its intention to leave Europe on March 29, but after a failure of negotiations is now participating
Nigel Farage’s newly-formed Brexit Party is leading the polls, amid warning that anything other than a strong anti-EU showing will be used as a reason to hold a second Brexit referendum
The issue of EU membership still starkly divides Britain, with Remain voters centred in London (pictured) while regional voters favour leaving
Elections will continue across the EU until Sunday, when the results will be announced (pictured, campaign posters in Belgium)
Skeptical Dutch voters in 2005 rejected a proposed EU constitution in a referendum.
Baudet, whose party emerged as a surprise winner of provincial elections in March, identifies more with hard-line Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban than with the nationalist populist movement led by Salvini.
However, in a debate Wednesday night, Baudet called Salvini a ‘hero of Europe’ for his crackdown on migration.
‘The immigration we get here from Africa and the Mideast is completely contrary to our culture, our values, our way of life, tolerance, love of women and so on,’ he said.
‘That has to stop and it will not happen at the European level.’
Meanwhile, in the UK, the governing Conservative party – which has been handling the country’s shambolic Brexit negotiations – is braced for an electoral wipeout amid speculation that Prime Minister Theresa May could be forced from power.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has been polling strongly ahead of the vote, with the Euroskeptic figurehead warning that anything other than a strong anti-EU result will be used as a reason to hold a second referendum on Brexit.
Pro-Remain Liberal Democrats – who have been leading calls for a second referendum – polled well in recent local elections, leaving the result far from certain.
A breakaway group of MPs from both Labour and Conservative parties campaigning for Remain under the moniker Change UK has further complicated the picture.