Isabel Hardman

Why a no-confidence vote in Theresa May could be closer than she thinks

Why a no-confidence vote in Theresa May could be closer than she thinks
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The consensus in the Conservative party is that Theresa May's visit to the 1922 Committee last night hasn't materially changed anything. Those who want her gone are still plotting her demise. A larger group of her MPs are very frustrated and unhappy. And there are still a good number of loyalists prepared to make supportive noises about the Prime Minister in the Chamber or 'crunch' meetings like the one last night.

What this does suggest is that there won't be another flood of letters calling for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, though the working theory remains that it is more likely that the threshold of 48 is reached by accident rather than as a result of a concerted campaign. There isn't yet a concerted campaign that involves plans to win the vote of no confidence and remove the Prime Minister.

But that's not to say that Downing Street should relax too much. I have been surprised by the number of MPs who have told me that they would never send a letter in but that they are either not sure how they would vote in a confidence vote, or that they would definitely vote against the Prime Minister. It says a great deal if someone isn't even confident of whether they could back the leader in such a vote. Their reasons go beyond the frustration with the Brexit process that is driving those penning letters to Graham Brady. Some are still hopping mad with May for calling the snap election last year, and will never trust her judgement again. Others think she will never have the kind of vision for domestic policy that the country needs.

This isn't to say that May would necessarily lose the confidence vote. But a couple of MPs who keep an eye on the numbers side of things think it could be much closer than the Prime Minister might expect. For Downing Street, even winning by one vote is a solid victory, but for the rest of her party, that sort of close shave would mean the Prime Minister had not really squashed her critics at all.