How previous Tory leaders fared in no-confidence votes, from Theresa May to Margaret Thatcher
Boris Johnson isn’t the first Conservative leader to face a confidence vote; John Major and Theresa May are two others.
Boris Johnson survived a no-confidence vote on Monday night, with 211 Tory MPs voting in his favor and 148 voting against him.
Despite a last-ditch attempt to secure support from the backbench with a speech to the 1922 Committee earlier on Monday, the under-fire PM won with barely 59 percent of the vote.
During the Covid epidemic, Mr Johnson had great support from his backbenchers, but he has subsequently struggled to hold their support after being accused of breaking his own lockdown rules.
There has been a continuous drip-drip of Conservatives declaring they have submitted no confidence letters since civil servant Sue Gray issued her report into lockdown parties in No. 10, which slammed a “lack of leadership.”
On December 12, 2018, Theresa May faced a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Sir Graham Brady, who was then and is now the head of the backbench 1922 Committee of MPs, broke the news early that morning.
Theresa May was the British Prime Minister.
Mrs May needed at least 159 Conservative MPs to gain a majority. There were 317 Conservative MPs who could vote.
At 9 p.m., the outcome was announced, with 200 MPs (63 percent) expressing confidence in Mrs May and 117 (37 percent) expressing doubt: a majority of 83, much higher than Mr Johnson’s 63.
Mrs May was able to keep her job as party leader and prime minister for the time being.
After multiple failures to get her Brexit proposal through the House of Commons and a poor showing by the Conservatives in the European elections, she announced her resignation just 5 months later.
Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith had only been the Conservative Party’s leader for a little over two years when he faced and lost a confidence vote.
It was the first time the party had held a vote of this magnitude.
Because there were so few Conservative MPs in the House of Commons at the time, only 25 letters of no confidence were required to start the vote.
The threshold was attained on October 28th, 2003, and the vote was held the next day, with 75 MPs (45%) expressing confidence in Mr Duncan Smith and 90 (55%) expressing dissatisfaction.
He stated that he would resign as soon as his replacement was chosen, which occurred just over a week later when Michael Howard was voted unchallenged as the new leader.
John Major received the equivalent of a vote of confidence in himself nearly five years after becoming Conservative leader and three years after winning a general election.
On June 22, 1995, he announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party, asking his opponents inside the party to back him or sack him, and emphasizing that he would expect complete support from his parliamentary colleagues in the future.
The election was held on July 4, and John Redwood resigned as Secretary of State for Wales to run against Mr Major.
To win the election, Mr. Major required a simple majority of the 329 Conservative MPs in the House of Commons.
111 MPs – a third of the party – voted for Mr Redwood, trashed their ballot papers, or abstained, despite the fact that he received 218 votes.
Mr Major remained leader and prime minister until he was defeated in the 1997 general election, which was held on May 1, almost two years after the leadership contest in 1995.
Margaret Thatcher was a British Prime Minister during the 1980s
A leadership election in the Conservative Party might be held once a year under former laws.
Sir Anthony Meyer, the little-known MP for Clwyd North West, used this technique in November 1989 to challenge Margaret Thatcher, who had been Prime Minister for a decade and Tory leader for 14 years.
He didn’t expect to win, but he wanted to see how strong the opposition to Mrs Thatcher was within the party.
Margaret Thatcher steps down from Downing Street on November 22, 1990, the day she formally resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Mrs. Thatcher won a landslide win, with 84 percent of MPs voting in her favor.
However, the 16% of backbenchers who voted for Sir Anthony, spoilt their ballot papers, or abstained was a hint of discontent.
These unease intensified over the next 12 months, leading in another leadership challenge, this time from Michael Heseltine, in November 1990.
On November 20, Mrs Thatcher received 204 votes and Mr Heseltine received 152 votes in the election.
This was not enough for Mrs Thatcher to surpass the two thresholds set out in the party rules, which required the winner to receive more than 50% of the vote overall and to be 15% ahead of the runner-up.
She first stated that she would run for a second term, but then withdrew two days later after consulting with close friends and colleagues.
After Douglas Hurd and John Major chose to enter the race, Mr Major won the second ballot on November 27 with 185 votes, followed by Mr Heseltine with 131 and Mr Hurd with 56.
Mr Heseltine and Mr Hurd soon withdrew from the race, obviating the need for a third round and ensuring that Mr Major was elected leader and prime minister without opposition.