View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
22 October 2018updated 07 Jun 2021 4:18pm

Why won’t Conservative backbenchers just get rid of Theresa May?

By Stephen Bush

Theresa May has survived, sort of. The backbench 1922 committee has drawn back from changing its rules to allow a second vote of confidence in May’s leadership within a year. As it stands, the Prime Minister cannot be challenged for the leadership until December of this year. But the Tory party can rewrite its rulebook at will, provided that a majority of the MPs on the 1922 committee agree to do so.

But they’ve opted not to do so – yet. May will instead have another meeting to discuss her future on Friday, after the European elections have passed, but before the results are known. (Counting will take place on Sunday evening, after everyone across the bloc has voted.)  

In practice, what is really taking place is simply haggling over the terms of May’s exit, and the important debate doesn’t even involve May. It is absolutely not about making it to Gordon Brown day – the date next week when she will overtake Brown as the United Kingdom’s 35th longest-serving Prime Minister – as she is guaranteed to exceed that date anyway as any leadership election will take her past that. (With a big field of candidates, she could well overhaul not just Brown but the Duke of Wellington and Neville Chamberlain into the bargain.)

In practice, Conservative MPs have three choices: change the rules to get rid of Theresa May early; wait for Theresa May’s immunity to expire and remove her in December; or persuade Theresa May to quit before her allotted expiry date. Very little of May’s career indicates that she will ever voluntarily resign.

But the great risk, as far as more cautious members of the 1922 committee are concerned, is that if you change the rules to oust May, it would permanently increase the level of instability within the party. As whoever replaces May will inherit the task of resolving Brexit and the finely balanced parliament that May’s bungled 2017 campaign produced, it adds a further degree of tension to an already fraught situation.

But if they don’t remove her before her scheduled immunity, it means another extension to the Brexit process, and further deepens the hole that her successor will have to climb out of.

Content from our partners
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola
The hard truth about soft skills
Why we need a national employment service

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU