Theresa May First Tory Leader to Face Grassroots Confidence Vote in 185 Years

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - APRIL 10: Britain's Prime minister Theresa May arrives ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building, The European Parliament on April 10, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. Theresa May formally presents her case to the European Union for a short delay to Brexit until …
Leon Neal/Getty

Grassroots Conservative Party members have triggered an emergency meeting to hold a confidence vote in party leader Theresa May — the first time such a measure has been enacted in the party’s 185-year history.

The Sun reports that the chairman of the National Conservative Convention, Andrew Sharpe, delivered the news to the Prime Minister on Monday, informing her that 70 Constituency Association Chairmen signed the petition calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting, exceeding the required 10 per cent threshold of 650 chairmen.

The petition was organised by the chairman of the Bethnal Green and Bow Conservative Association, Dinah Glover, who said this week, “I am extremely sad that we have had to organise this. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is no longer the solution to the problem, but is actually the block to Brexit.”

The signatories write in the petition that they “no longer feel that Ms May is the right person to continue as Prime Minister to lead us forward in the negotiations,” adding, “We therefore with great reluctance ask that she considers her position and resigns, to allow the Conservative Party to choose another leader, and the Country to move forward and negotiate our exit from the EU.”

While local the National Conservative Convention has less control over the direction and running of the party than the Remainer-dominated Conservative Central Headquarters (CCHQ), including constituency candidate selection, it is the most senior voluntary body in the party and retained the power to call an extraordinary meeting and the confidence vote under the party constitution.

In December, Conservative Party MPs triggered a Parliamentary party confidence vote, which Mrs May survived — leaving her protected from another parliamentary party confidence vote for 12 months.

While the decision of December’s vote was binding — if the Prime Minister had lost the confidence of her MPs, it would have triggered a party leadership election — the NCC vote technically is not, although it could render her position untenable or send at least message to the party leadership of their dissatisfaction with its handling of Brexit.

Sky News reports a Downing Street source as downplaying the significance of the vote, and claiming it is not certain that a majority of the 800 constituency chairmen and senior activists involved will vote against Mrs May.

A minimum 28-days’ notice must be given and Prime Minister May will be invited to address the meeting, which The Sun predicted will take place in early June — after the English local elections and European Parliament elections.

Last week, members of the influential, mostly eurosceptic 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs told Mrs May that she should name a departure date, with committee members planning a vote to change party rules to make it easier to get rid of an unpopular party leader – but those attempts failed when the ’22 ultimately voted against the measures, saying they did not want to “rock the boat” ahead of local elections.

However, Conservative activists have already expressed that Mrs May twice delaying Brexit, refusing to leave the EU on No Deal terms, and preferring to negotiate a compromise with the hard-left Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has already done significant damage to the party on the doorstep ahead of May 2nd’s local elections, where the Tories are predicted to lose between 405 and 1,100 seats.

A recent YouGov poll has also found that more than half of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2017’s General Election are planning to vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in May 23rd’s European Parliament election — which the country did not anticipate taking part in, nearly three years after the Leave vote.

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