The Theresa May leadership confidence vote went the prime minister’s way, but what is next for the Conservative Party and Brexit?
By a vote of 200 MPs to 117, Conservatives determined that they have confidence in the leadership of Theresa May. This is to say, she retained the leadership of the Conservative Party and cannot face a subsequent challenge of her position for a year. (Link: BBC News)
A move had been growing amongst the Tories for weeks to call a confidence challenge to May’s leadership. Brexit was the reason, and it was not until a day or two ago that a sufficient number of Conservative MPs came forward to begin the proceedings. Pro-Brexit MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg led the charge to oust May, in steadfast opposition to her proposed Brexit deal, but did not succeed at deposing her. No doubt more than a few were annoyed with the last-minute decision to delay the Brexit vote in the House of Commons, which the government would have lost in a rout.
What does the vote mean for the Tories, and how will this impact the ongoing drama surrounding Brexit?
Theresa May Leadership Confidence Vote: The Numbers
May received 63.09 percent of votes cast declaring confidence in her continued Tory leadership. 36.91 percent of voting Conservative MPs had no confidence. Had the prime minister lost this vote, a Conservative party leadership election would have been triggered.
Theresa May Leadership Confidence Vote: The Fallout
The prime minister stated she would go on with the job, given after all that 63 percent support within her parliamentary party is good enough for her. It also means that 37 percent of it is against her; a healthy minority that is not going away and, in all probability, that she will never win back.
Though Rees-Mogg and the pro-Brexit plotters did not emerge with May’s leadership terminated, they may (ironic choice of words) have dealt a mortal wound to it. A building narrative is that this was a victory for May, but not a great one, given the sizable rebellion within her party.
Theresa May Leadership Confidence Vote: Take These Points Away From It
May is not going to lead the Conservatives into the next election. She says it would be in 2022, but the Conservatives would in reality be tickled if their government lasted another three and a half years. Minority governments tend not to have such a shelf life, and for the Tories to go a full five years with their party divided, the DUP annoyed, and an ongoing Brexit migraine would be nothing short of a political miracle. Applying some sensibility, the next election will be sooner. Jeremy Corbyn and others in opposition want it to be now, which May needs like a slap in the forehead. It only happens if she gets forced into it, which some in her party seem intent to cause, but they will no doubt lose the confidence of the House before 2022.
All this is by way of saying that this recent vote might not be May’s only confidence motion to stare down.
It wasn’t a great result for May. Her leadership is not sunk, but it took a hit. Over one-third is too big of a rebellion to ignore, showing it was more than just a few disgruntled MPs. The end of her tenure may (again, ironic) come sooner rather than later. She does not have to go right now, but her premiership is taking on water. This does nothing to prove that the Conservative Party is united, and in fact achieves the opposite. The issue of Britain’s place in Europe looks set to take out yet another Tory prime minister.
Calls for these things will increase: a “People’s Vote,” a new Brexit deal, and a new election. Theresa May gets to have all the fun lately. 100-some-odd people in her own party don’t want her, and the rest of the Parliament couldn’t agree more. There does not seem to be a way to achieve Brexit in a way that satisfies both hemispheres of the Tory Party, much less the rest of the electorate. May’s detractors within the Conservatives and in other parties will claim they can do it better. They might or might not get the chance. Others would be content to throw it back to the public, some in hopes that a referendum offers them an out from Brexit.