Theresa May survived the vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party on Wednesday night, receiving 200 votes out of 317 MPs. 117 MPs voted against the prime minister, and there were no abstentions.
There were initially cheers in the committee room when Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee said that the party had confidence in Mrs May, but this soon turned to a sharp intake of breath when the reduced scale of the victory was announced.
As the Mail on Sunday's deputy political editor Harry Cole tweeted, "100 -125 was at upper end of plotters desires. More than double the amount who called for initial vote. Loyalists briefing 50-80 all day. Whatever you hear in the next few hours on the airwaves, this is a wounder."
Although she received a clear majority of 87 votes, there was immediate speculation that beyond the payroll vote of around 130 MPs who are paid by the government, there is a large majority of backbench Tory MPs against her and her withdrawal agreement.
Speaking in Downing Street for the second time in the day, Mrs May confirmed that she would continue as leader and said "I'm pleased to have received the backing of colleagues." She acknowledged the large minority who voted against her, and said that she would seek assurances from EU leaders about the backstop.
"Following this ballot, we now have to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country," Mrs May said.
Arch-leaver and chair of the European Research Group (ERG) Jacob Rees-Mogg immediately said that Mrs May should go to the Queen and tender her resignation. "Under all constitutional norms she should go see the Queen and resign," he said. "The overwhelming majority of her non-paid backbenchers have voted against her, she clearly doesn't have the confidence of the Commons - she should make way for someone who does."
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted that Mrs May "limps on to her next failure, the deal won't pass and the real crisis is close."
The shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "Shocking result for Theresa May. Even having offered to go before the next general election she still has a huge 117 Tory MPs, a third of her party, voting against her and not having confidence in her. Wow."
Mark Francois, vice chairman of the ERG, called on Cabinet ministers to "tell Theresa May that they have lost confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party."
Reaction in the financial world was muted, with the prime minister's victory priced in to the market.
“It’s hard to get too excited just yet, as the margin of victory was moderate,” said Mazen Issa, a foreign-exchange strategist at TD Securities. The vote “helps to avoid a very bad outcome, which could easily push the UK government further into the realm of chaos,” he said, noting that in the short-term trading in the pound “will remain a chop-fest.”
The contest had been called early in the morning of the same day, when Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs had announced that more than 15% of the party’s MPs – 48 members – had written to him ask for a leadership election, indicating their lack of confidence in Mrs May.
Mr Brady had told the prime minister late on Tuesday night that she would be facing an election, and it is understood she requested an immediate poll to allow her to continue to tour European capitals pushing for changes to the EU withdrawal agreement she had wanted to bring to Parliament this week.
Her decision to pull the vote on the agreement on Monday was seen by many MPs as the final straw, and lead to a last-minute flood of letters to Sir Graham which took the total past 48.
As it happened: Theresa May faces battle to remain UK Prime Minister
Mrs May gave a pugnacious speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday morning, setting out her desire to fight on. She produced another bravado performance at prime minister’s questions, where she bested the opposition Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
In the early evening she addressed her electorate of Tory MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee, where she told members that she would not stand as leader at the next general election, a widely trailed concession which was believed to be a necessary to shore up support.