Conservative rules state that 15 per cent of MPs can trigger a leadership contest by writing a letter of no-confidence in the incumbent to the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady.
That figure currently stands at 48 of the 315 Conservative MPs after a surge of discontent within the party over Theresa May’s Brexit approach, the threshold was met and a vote officially announced on Wednesday morning. MPs will have a simple choice – do they have confidence or not in Mrs May’s leadership.
Sir Graham phoned Mrs May to inform him of this and is now tasked with supervising the secret vote on Wednesday evening, expected to take place between 18.00 and 20.00 GMT. Results will be announced roughly an hour later.
Mrs May needs a majority of one to survive but, in reality, she could still decide to resign if she feels she has lost the party. If Mrs May were to win and decide to stay on, it would also mean she could not face another vote of no confidence for 12 months.
The 1922 Committee is one of the UK’s most powerful groups, made up Conservatives without a ministerial portfolio and intended to give a voice to all party members in the House of Commons.
They hold weekly meetings in parliament Committee Room 14, where tonight’s vote will take place, and the 18-member executive council is elected by Conservative backbenchers. It’s chairman Sir Graham Brady is a former shadow minister for Europe and was a supporter for Brexit.
If Mrs May were to lose the vote, Conservative MPs would be able to choose the last two contenders for successor – Sir Graham plans for this part to have happened before Christmas.
After that members of the Conservative party would then vote for their choice of leader. This could take weeks and would mean Mrs May would effectively serve as a caretaker prime minister until her replacement was announced.