May safe to December as 1922 Committee rejects rule change

Theresa May is safe from a Tory leadership challenge until December after the backbench 1922 Committee rejected a rule change to force her out. 

Furious Tory MPs had hoped to hold a fresh vote on the PM’s leadership only four months after she survived a confidence ballot on December 12. 

Current party rules mean that MPs cannot trigger another leadership challenge for at least 12 months after the last one. 

The committee rejected a rule change today but has demanded a ‘clear timetable’ from the PM, who has promised to stand down before the next phase of Brexit

Mrs May’s Government can still face a further confidence vote in the House of Commons, which could trigger a general election if she lost.  

Theresa May, pictured with her husband Philip on Easter Sunday, is safe from a Conservative leadership challenge until December after backbenchers rejected a change to party rules

Theresa May, pictured with her husband Philip on Easter Sunday, is safe from a Conservative leadership challenge until December after backbenchers rejected a change to party rules

Theresa May, pictured with her husband Philip on Easter Sunday, is safe from a Conservative leadership challenge until December after backbenchers rejected a change to party rules 

Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady said: ‘We will communicate to the Prime Minister our request for a clear timetable to be set for her departure.  

‘I think it is a very clear message that the party expects clarity and certainty.’ 

The PM had set our her plans in the event of the Withdrawal Agreement being passed but needed to clarify her future ‘in other circumstances’, he said.   

‘I think the 1922 executive is asking on behalf of the Conservative Party in Parliament that we should have a clear roadmap forward,’ he said. 

Asked if the PM could tell her MPs that she intends to stay on until December, Mr Brady said: ‘I think that would be a surprising response’.  

Fifteen per cent of Tory MPs have to write to Mr Brady to trigger a vote but no such ballot can now take place until the end of 2019.  

Mr Brady said it was ‘always available’ to MPs to write to him with concerns about the party leadership. 

Sir Graham Brady (pictured left), chairman of the 1922 Committee, said the backbench group had rejected a rule change but demanded a 'roadmap forward' on the PM's future

Sir Graham Brady (pictured left), chairman of the 1922 Committee, said the backbench group had rejected a rule change but demanded a 'roadmap forward' on the PM's future

Sir Graham Brady (pictured left), chairman of the 1922 Committee, said the backbench group had rejected a rule change but demanded a ‘roadmap forward’ on the PM’s future 

‘The strength of opinion would be communicated by me to the leader of the party should they decide to do so,’ he said.   

Mrs May won the December 12 confidence vote by 200 to 117.  Party rules state that if a leader wins, ‘no vote of confidence shall be called for a period of at least 12 months’.  

However some rebel MPs had hoped to tear up the rules amid fury at Mrs May for delaying Brexit, holding talks with Jeremy Corbyn and forcing the Tories to compete in European elections next month.  

Under one proposal discussed last night, the ‘grace period’ would have been cut to six months, allowing a challenge on June 12. 

The committee voted against the rule change with Mr Brady himself abstaining as chairman. 

Mr Brady said the backbenchers could ‘revisit’ the rule change at a later date if they wished to, but said he believed the matter was now ‘settled’.  

A Conservative Home poll has found that Theresa May is now the least popular cabinet member after her rating dropped by 20 points in a month

A Conservative Home poll has found that Theresa May is now the least popular cabinet member after her rating dropped by 20 points in a month

A Conservative Home poll has found that Theresa May is now the least popular cabinet member after her rating dropped by 20 points in a month 

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions arrives at No.10 Downing Street

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions arrives at No.10 Downing Street

Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, leaves Downing Street

Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, leaves Downing Street

Remainer Amber Rudd was followed out of No 10 by Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, after today’s Cabinet meeting in Downing Street 

Mr Brady met privately with the PM before the committee talks, which began yesterday.  

The 1922 decision today means the PM fights on for now but her popularity among Tory members has hit rock bottom. 

Her approval rating among party members has dropped by more than 20 points in a month, to a net minus 73.5 per cent. 

She is now the least popular member of the cabinet, overtaking Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, whose approval is minus 71.1 per cent.  

Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom is the most popular on a net plus 40.6 per cent, followed by Liz Truss, Jeremy Hunt and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, the poll of Tory supporters by ConservativeHome has revealed. 

Possible leadership candidates Michael Gove and Sajid Javid also earned net positive ratings from party members.  

Mrs May could still face a fresh confidence vote in the House of Commons, a process which is not governed by Tory party rules. 

She could also face a symbolic vote on her future by disgruntled local party chairmen. 

The PM is facing pressure to lay out her plans if MPs continue to oppose her deal with Brussels.  

Theresa May, pictured at church on Easter Sunday with her husband Philip, is facing pressure from backbench Conservative MPs to name a departure date

Theresa May, pictured at church on Easter Sunday with her husband Philip, is facing pressure from backbench Conservative MPs to name a departure date

Theresa May, pictured at church on Easter Sunday with her husband Philip, is facing pressure from backbench Conservative MPs to name a departure date

The PM said in March that she would stand down as Prime Minister before the next phase of Brexit negotiations if her withdrawal agreement was passed. 

She hoped her pledge to quit would persuade rebel Tory MPs to back her deal but  two days later the Commons rejected it again.  

Nigel Evans, executive secretary of the Committee, yesterday said the process for selecting a new leader ‘can’t start soon enough’.

He said: ‘I believe the only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership of the Conservative Party.’ 

But other senior figures publicly resisted the idea of a rule change.

Alec Shelbrooke, another member of the committee, said it would only encourage those pressing for a second referendum on Brexit.

‘The idea that if we change the leader, everything changes… the maths in the Commons is still the same,’ he said. ‘We should be concentrating on getting this Brexit deal through so we can leave.’ 

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