May's critics should think twice before pushing for a no confidence vote

After David Davis' resignation, rumours of a no confidence vote are growing. But would it succeed? (And does it matter?)

July 09, 2018
Is David Davis' resignation the beginning of the end for May? Photo: PA
Is David Davis' resignation the beginning of the end for May? Photo: PA

After repeated threats to resign, he’s finally done it. This weekend, while Pride revellers danced in the streets of Soho, and the country celebrated the fact that it is now, surely, coming home, David Davis was planning his (actual) resignation.

The former Brexit minister’s departure followed Friday’s meeting at Chequers, at which the Prime Minister seemed to have secured backing for what her critics consider too soft a Brexit bluebrint. Boris Johnson apparently called the proposed deal “a turd.”

Nevertheless, the sense on Saturday morning was that even the sceptics had been worn down by a long day of negotiating, and they ultimately agreed to the proposal.

Yet after a weekend of contemplation, Davis tendered his resignation just before midnight on Sunday. (Surprising, apparently, several members of his own department.)

The former minister has long been frustrated by the prominence of May’s Europe advisor Olly Robbins.

The question now is whether others will follow Davis.

Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt were all apparently pushing for a harder Brexit at Chequers, with Liam Fox and Michael Gove also worth keeping an eye on.

Steve Baker has already tendered his resignation. As Patrick Maguire has noted, it is he who is most likely to organise the mutiny against May going forward.

Yet MPs threatening to trigger a confidence vote against May—which requires the backing of 48 MPs—may wish to exercise caution.

With only one contest permitted every 12 months, and few in Westminster confident that May would lose a vote if it were held now, the Brexiteers may well be wise to keep their powder dry.

Pushing for a resignation is, of course, another matter.

Now read Mark Wallace on how the Conservatives' arcane no confidence system actually works