Prime Minister Theresa May has returned from her Easter break to find that hostile Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) are stepping up their attempts to unseat her and elect a Brexiteer to the party leadership.
Some party members are furious about May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations with the European Union and that she has entered into talks with the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, with these cross-party talks set to resume in the afternoon of 23 April.
Nigel Evans, the joint executive secretary of the backbench 1922 Committee and the MP for the Ribble Valley in the northwest of England, said: “The only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership of the Conservative Party.”
Backbench MPs will meet on the evening of 23 April to debate the possibility of altering the Conservative Party rules so that a new vote of confidence in the leader can take place. A challenge by the European Research Group of MPs in December 2018 failed to dislodge May from the leadership, but under current Tory Party rules another vote of confidence cannot be called for 12 months (mid-December 2019).
Furthermore, the local Conservative Party associations, comprised of activists and party members, are also calling for an extraordinary general meeting so that a vote of confidence in May can be held. Party associations can hold a vote of confidence in the leader if more than 65 chairmen of the associations called for a meeting; that threshold has already been attained. However, a vote at an extraordinary general meeting would be non-binding on the Prime Minister.
May is also facing pressure from two new parties that have been launched and that will contest the European Parliament elections, if they are held (in the United Kingdom) on 23 May.
Nigel Farage, formerly the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has launched the Brexit Party and is tipped to take the votes of up to 40 percent of Conservative Councillors and other Tory voters.
In addition, there are former Conservative and Labour Party MPs who left their respective parties to form the loose alignment of MPs known as The Independent Group. That group has now coalesced into Change UK, with former Tory MP Heidi Allen as the interim leader.
Recent polls show that Tory voters could abandon the Conservatives if the European Parliament elections go ahead with both the Brexit Party and Change UK as major beneficiaries. One poll showed the Labour and Brexit Parties tied at 26 percent each if early voting intentions are to be believed.