On the 15th January 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a devastating loss in the House of Commons. Her proposed Brexit plan was defeated in the house with 432 MPs voting against her deal. The loss was so significant, that it was one of the largest government defeats UK political history.
But May’s evening we set to get even worse. After the vote opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn gave an impassioned speech, during which he tabled a motion of no confidence against her government. The motion is set to be voted on today (Wednesday 16th January) meaning the PM doesn’t have long to protect her position.
What is a Motion of No Confidence?
MPs will be asked to vote on the motion “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” Essentially they are being asked if they still believe that the government is able to operate effectively.
To win the vote the government need a majority of MPs to vote against the motion. This would allow them to hold onto power, at least for a little longer. May would still be PM and they would continue to be responsible for navigating Brexit. The government has a number of different paths they can take regarding Brexit, but none of them are easy.
If a majority of MPs vote against the government then that’s where things get difficult. The Conservatives would have 14 days to form a new government; a new government which is unlikely to have May at the helm.
That being said, the Conservatives couldn’t actually get rid of May themselves. Back in December, the party held of motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister which she won. Conservative party rules state that if the leader wins a motion of no confidence then they can’t be challenged again for another year, making May safe.
However, if the Conservatives were to offer an alternative government which still featured May, it’s very possible that it would be rejected by the House of Commons. That’s because the new government has to be approved by the House before they are confirmed into office.
To give her party a chance of getting a government confirmed, May would likely step aside and let someone else lead the new government. Although it’s hard to see who could realistically replace her.
If the Conservatives can’t get a government together within 14 days, or the government they produce isn’t confirmed, then a general election would be called. Recent polling shows that voting intention is incredibly close, with the Conservatives only beating Labour by 2% in the popular vote. To find out more about who would win the general election if it were held today, check out our article on the subject.
Will it Pass?
For the motion to pass a majority of MPs need to vote to support it.
We can assume that the virtually all Conservative MPs will vote against the motion, supporting the government. No matter how deep the divisions are within the party, it’s important to Conservatives that their party retains power. MPs aren’t likely to risk a general election where they could lose power to the Labour party.
Unfortunately for May’s government, their party doesn’t hold enough votes to support them alone. Even with all Conservative MPs on side, they would still need additional support from outside the party.
The Conservative’s might be in luck though with supply and confidence partners, the DUP, promising to support the government. Although the DUP and Conservatives haven’t seen eye to eye on all issues, the DUP does still support the government and says they will vote to back it.
With the combined votes of the Conservative party and the DUP, May does have enough support to defeat the motion and keep her government alive.
For Corbyn’s motion to be successful he would need to persuade seven Conservative or DUP MPs to vote against a government, which could be a very tough sell. However, considering the recent rebellions within the Conservative party, nothing is impossible.