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Theresa May survives confidence vote in leadership of Conservative party

By Paul Francis

Theresa May has survived a vote of no confidence in her leadership in a dramatic day in which she has had to fend off a challenge by rebel MPs.

In a vote of Conservative MPs, 200 voted in favour of the Prime Minister and 117 against her, giving her a majority of 83.

The result means she cannot now be challenged for a year, giving her a respite and the chance to see Brexit delivered.

Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier struck a defiant tone in a statement outside Downing Street
Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier struck a defiant tone in a statement outside Downing Street

The magic number to win was 159 votes, however, the margin of victory is unlikely to silence her critics and deep divisions over the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU remain.

Most of the county’s MPs had publicly backed the PM, with the exception of Gravesham MP Adam Holloway, who had already been among MPs demanding a vote.

Mrs May had earlier struck a defiant tone in a statement outside Downing Street, saying: "A change of leadership in Conservative party now would put our country's future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it.

"An election risks handing control to opposition MPs in Parliament."

The veteran Kent MP Sir Roger Gale was first out of the blocks with a message saying he would be backing the PM and labelling her critics as self-indulgent.

But not everyone was backing the PM with local party activists questioning the deal over Brexit as one that failed to deliver what the party had promised.

And Medway council leader Alan Jarrett said he had lost confidence in the leader but did not want her to stand aside yet.

VIDEO: Kent's MPs speaking ahead of the vote

Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street after the result of the vote was announced, Mrs May said she was grateful for the support she had received.

"A significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I've listened to what they said," she said.

"Following this ballot we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country.

"A Brexit that delivers on the vote that people gave, that brings back control of our money, our borders, and our laws, that protects jobs, security and the union, that brings the country back together rather than entrenching division.

"That must start here in Westminster with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest.

"For my part I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will alleviate the concerns that members of parliament have.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has been a fierce critic of May, calling for her to resign
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has been a fierce critic of May, calling for her to resign

"But while delivering Brexit is important, we also need to focus on the other issues that people feel are vital for them - that matter to them today - the issues that we came into politics to deal with.

"Building a stronger economy, delivering first class public services, building the homes that families need, we owe it to the people who put us here to put their priorities first.

"So here is our renewed mission, delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together, and building a country that truly works for everyone."

ANALYSIS

As political coups go, the rebellion sparked by 48 dissenting Conservative MPs against Theresa May failed.

Sparked by anger that the Brexit deal she had negotiated was nothing like what voters had been promised, the dissenting MPs used the party rule book to trigger a vote of no confidence.

It failed and Theresa May survives for a year but her problems have not gone away.

She still has the challenge of selling her deal and not just to MPs but to party activists who are equally aggrieved that the Brexit they wanted is not what they have got.

Down the Brexit road lies plenty of hazards and as yet unanswered questions.

What happens if she doesn't get the support of MPs? Will there be a second referendum or a people's vote? Will a general election be needed?

She has seen off a threat tonight but it is only one battle in the Brexit war.

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