Jeremy Corbyn launches bid to topple Theresa May in aftermath of major Brexit defeat

Immediately after the vote, the Labour leader moved to table a formal motion of no confidence in the government

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 15 January 2019 20:49 GMT
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Jeremy Corbyn launches bid to topple Theresa May in aftermath of major Brexit defeat

Jeremy Corbyn has launched a bid to topple Theresa May in the aftermath of the prime minister’s Brexit deal being rejected in a historic Commons defeat.

Immediately after the vote, the Labour leader moved to table a formal motion of no confidence in Ms May’s government, claiming it would allow MPs to give their “verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government”.

It came after the prime minister’s deal was rejected by a record majority of 230, as around 100 of her own backbenchers ignored her last-ditch appeal to vote down the Brexit agreement.

The result constitutes the largest defeat of a government in modern political history - taking the record from the Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, who lost by 166 votes in 1924.

It is unlikely the Labour leader’s move - a challenge suggested by the prime minister herself to test the House - would gain the simple majority that is required when MPs vote on the motion on Wednesday afternoon.

In order for the motion to pass, at least seven Tory MPs would have to vote against their own government and risking a general election.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who are responsible for propping up Ms May’s fragile government through a supply and confidence agreement, also indicated earlier on Tuesday the party would vote with the government should the prime minister’s Brexit deal be voted down.

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, if the no confidence motion passes, however, the House has a 14-day period to form a government and pass a fresh motion of confidence in its favour. Failing this, a general election will be called.

The last time a motion of no confidence successfully received the required support of MPs was in 1979 - by just one vote. After the motion passed - defeating Jim Callaghan’s minority Labour government - Margaret

Thatcher emerged victorious in the resulting election, with a clear majority.

If Mr Corbyn fails to win the vote of no confidence tomorrow he will also come under intense pressure to throw his party’s weight behind a fresh referendum from pro-Remain MPs in the Labour Party.

Labour’s policy motion - agreed at the party conference in 2018 - says that if a general election can not be achieved, then all options will then be on the table, including campaigning for a People’s Vote.

Speaking after the crushing defeat in the Commons, A Number 10 spokesperson said they hoped to open talks with other MPs as “swiftly as possible” once the vote of confidence was out of the way.

"We want to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House consistent with what we believe to be the result of the referendum," the spokesman said.

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