London, Dec 13 (IANS) Members of parliament from UK’s Conservative Party on Wednesday evening kicked off the no confidence vote against Prime Minister Theresa May, the first of its kind in nearly 40 years.
The ballot, held behind closed doors, started at 1800 GMT and is expected to end at 2000 GMT, and the results of the vote is expected to be announced at around 2100 GMT.
Hours before the vote began, media reports said that May is likely to win the no confidence vote in her leadership as 158 Conservative MPs publicly voiced support for the prime minister, reports Xinhua.
The vote will decide the political fate of the prime minister — whether she should stay or whether she should go.
Just before the start of the secret vote, May told Tory MPs in a crunch meeting that she won’t stand at next election in order to win more support from lawmakers from her party.
The most recent no confidence vote was held against the Callaghan ministry in March 1979. Following the defeat, the then prime minister, James Callaghan, was forced to hold a general election by May, and he was defeated by Margaret Thatcher of the Conservative Party.
Sky News and Daily Telegraph both reported that 158 Tory MPs declared public support for the prime minister — enough to win the Wednesday night’s no confidence vote.
May will need the support of more than 50 per cent of the 315 Conservative MPs to cling to power, or 158 in total.
If she wins, there can not be another challenge for a year.
If she loses, she must resign and a party leadership contest is held in which she is barred from running. All other Conservative members of parliament can run.
Graham Brady, the head of the so-called 1922 Committee, said that the required threshold 48 letters from members of parliament needed to trigger a vote of confidence in party leadership has been reached.
The 1922 Committee — the organisation representing all backbench Conservative MPs — decides the procedure and sets the timetable for a leadership contest.
Brady said that the results will be “announced as soon as possible in the evening.”
In response, the prime minister said, “I will contest leadership vote with everything I have got.”
May, addressing the media outside 10 Downing Street, said that a change of leadership now would create uncertainty “when we can least afford it.”
The first act of a successor if she loses, she said, would have to be extending or rescinding Article 50, the mechanism that started the two-year countdown to Britain leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019.
May said she has devoted herself unsparingly to delivering Brexit, concluding: “I stand ready to finish the job.”
May is not the first Conservative prime minister to vow to fight to save her position in the face of rebellious MPs.
Margaret Thatcher famously declared “I fight on, I fight to win” as she battled a challenge from Michael Heseltine in November 1990, only to stand down after senior Tories advised her she was heading for defeat.
The Iron Lady became the only prime minister to be removed from office by a party leadership ballot among her own MPs.