For the conservative British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, the day most likely began with some joyful news: for weeks it looked as though his attempt to overthrow British Prime Minister Theresa May by staging an internal coup had failed. But now her decision to postpone the “Motion on Withdrawal Agreement” vote has played into his hands. And this very evening the vote of no confidence is to be held within the Conservative parliamentary group due to the urgency of the situation. Will May succeed in also fending off this attack? “All” she needs is a simple majority of the votes to achieve this. The Conservatives currently hold 315 seats in parliament. Assuming all MPs take part in the vote, May would therefore need 158 votes to remain in office. Then she would be safe from further attacks from her own ranks for the next twelve months. If she loses, a new party leadership and, by extension, also a new Prime Minister would have to be elected.
The procedure for electing a new party leader is simple and begins with all interested candidates throwing their hats in the ring. If more than two names are on the list (which is to be assumed), the parliamentary group always holds a vote on Tuesday and Thursday in order to sort out the weakest candidate. This continues until only two candidates are left. The final choice is then to be made by the party base. In a worst case, this process can take several weeks – a whole lot of time that the British do not really have. The pressure will therefore be great to complete the choice of a new party leadership as quickly as possible. This could be achieved by encouraging the less promising candidates to withdraw their candidacy at an early stage. Theoretically, it would then be conceivable for a new party leader to already be appointed by the end of next week.
In the meantime, Theresa May would remain in office. But she will be virtually unable to act. She herself does not have the opportunity to run for office after losing a vote of no confidence. In these circumstances, the vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement could be postponed until well into January.
It will be interesting to see how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn deals with the new situation. Recently it has become increasingly clear that he is aiming for a new election. This might also have contributed towards driving the conservatives into Jacob Rees-Mogg’s arms. After all, they would rather risk a change in their own party leadership than a new election with an uncertain outcome. But even if the Tories are most likely to have taken the wind out of Corbyn’s sails by launching their direct attack on May, a parliamentary vote of no confidence also cannot be ruled out. Theoretically, it would even be conceivable for Corbyn to initiate this while the conservative party leadership was being elected.