Ex-Tory leader Michael Howard warns MPs that vote of no confidence in Theresa May would be 'extremely foolish’

Party rules dictate that 48 Tory MPs must sign letters of no confidence before a vote is triggered, but that number has not yet materialised

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Tuesday 10 July 2018 10:00
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Michael Howard on Theresa May no confidence

A former Conservative leader has warned his colleagues that mounting a vote of no confidence in Theresa May would be “extremely foolish and ill-advised.”

Lord Michael Howard’s remarks came as the prime minister clings to office following the resignation of two of her most senior cabinet ministers on Monday in one of the most tumultuous days in Westminster since the general election.

After the departure of David Davis and Boris Johnson from government, other senior ministers rallied around Theresa May amid speculation of a looming vote of no confidence in her leadership.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Howard, a prominent Brexiteer, said: “I do think that it would be extremely foolish and extremely ill advised for anyone to send in letters to mount a motion of no confidence in the prime minister.”

“I think, and I’m delighted, that good sense seems to be breaking out,” he added.

In order for such a vote to be held, party rules dictate that 48 Tory MPs – 15 per cent of the party’s 316-strong representation in the Commons – must write to the chairman of the of the backbench 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady.

But Sir Graham has consistently refused to say whether he had received any such letters.

In a swipe at the former foreign secretary’s resignation letter, Lord Howard said “I do not believe the Brexit dream is dying” as claimed by Mr Johnson.

His comments were echoed by another former Conservative leader, William Hague, who said that Tory MPs “with their pens hovering over letters demanding a vote of no confidence” need to think about the risk of a even softer Brexit or none at all should the prime minister be toppled.

“The chances that such resignations will lead to the sort of Brexit they desire are around zero, but the possibility that they will give fresh momentum to demands for a second referendum or further weaken the negotiating position of the UK is considerable,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

David Gauke, the justice secretary, warned his colleagues on Radio 4 that it was right both Mr Johnson and Mr Davis had resigned, saying the cabinet should “speak with one voice” on Brexit policy.

Asked whether he thought the prime minister would face a leadership challenge, the former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon also the BBC: “No I don't. I think, over all, colleagues should think very, very carefully about that.

”That's the last thing we need at the moment," he said. “We now have a plan. There is now an agreed plan on the way forward.”

On Monday, Ms May addressed MPs and raised the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in an attempt to appeal for unity on Brexit.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland said: “She talked about Corbyn, she talked about the alternative which is delivering the country to the sort of government that I don't think people have voted for and certainly any Conservative voter would be repelled by.”

Asked if the PM lives to fight another day after the meeting, Mr Buckland said: “Oh, definitely. I think she is strengthened by all of this.

“I think it helps her. What she said, I think the most striking remark was 'to lead is to decide'.”

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