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Matters of confidence: How prime ministers lost one of the biggest weapons in their parliamentary arsenal

The key is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

By Colin Talbot  

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

Today started with reports that Downing Street had “let it be known” that Theresa May would make votes on the Customs Union a matter of “confidence.” The implication seemed to be that if she lost she would call a general election. By mid-morning officials had rowed back.

Making votes in parliament a matter of “confidence” in the government used to be one of the prime minister’s biggest sticks. They could threaten backbenchers that if they didn’t fall into line they…

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