The Eurosceptic Tory MPs behind the confidence vote over Theresa May’s leadership last night refused to drop their demand for her to quit, in a sign the Prime Minister’s position is far from secure.
In the run-up to the vote, one of Mrs May’s supporters said they hoped the result would put “a stake through the heart” of the European Research Group.
However, within minutes of Mrs May’s 200-117 victory being announced, ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg said it had been a “terrible result for the Prime Minister” and she should go.
He likened it to the confidence vote in former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990, who won a first round then resigned when it became obvious her time was up.
He said Mrs May had survived only after offering to stand down before a general election and, as a result, looked fatally weak.
“The urgency of having a new leader is not reduced by today, it’s increased,” he said.
The arch Brexiter said Mrs May would still face insurmountable problems getting her deal and related legislation through Parliament and, as she could not command a majority, she “ought to make way for somebody who can”.
He told the BBC: “About half the parliamentary party is in the pay of the Prime Minister one way or another. Out of the remaining 160 or 170, 117 voted against her.
“Anyone who’s on the payroll and didn’t vote for her should have resigned, and nobody’s resigned, so you’ve got to assume the payroll voted for her.
“This is 177 out of 160, 170. This is a terrible result for the Prime Minister.”
Pressed on whether he accepted the result, he said: “Of course I accept this result. But the Prime Minister must realise that, under all constitutional norms, she ought to go and see the Queen urgently and resign.
“If a Prime Minister cannot get her business through the House of Commons and then discovers that the overwhelming majority of her backbenchers have voted against her, she clearly doesn’t have the confidence of the House of Commons and she should make way for somebody who does.”
Mark Francois, vice chair of the ERG, said the result was “devastating”, adding: “She lost well over half of the backbenchers. That’s an extremely difficult position for any Prime Minister to find themselves in.”
“Most of the pundits said we’d get somewhere between 60 and 80. We’ve blown that clear out of the water. Over a third of her MPs have said they don’t have confidence in her.
“That is a devastating verdict.”
Asked what the ERG could do about Mrs May declaring victory, he said ominously: “Let us see what happens in the cold light of morning. When people reflect on that massive number, 117, I think that will be very sobering for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. If I were her, I wouldn’t be pleased with this at all – quite the opposite.”
He added: “She needs to think carefully what to do now. She’s clearly lost the support of the DUP. She’s lost the support of a third of her colleagues, half her backbenchers… It’s an extremely difficult position for her from now on.”
Fellow Brexiter Tory Andrew Bridgen called the vote a “missed opportunity” to reset the UK’s negotiations with the EU, adding: “The vote has not solved any of the problems the government faces.”
Loyalist Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said Mrs May had won “very comfortably”.
He said: “Of course this has been a difficult day for the Conservative Party. But the reality is the Conservative Party, by a substantial margin tonight, has said we want you to carry on and do the job.”
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the arithmetic had not changed.
She said: “Unless she manages to get dramatic changes made to the withdrawal agreement, this deal she has on the table will not go through Parliament.”
Source : HeraldScotland