UK leadership challenge: How does it work?

1922 committee

What is the 1922 Committee? How Jacob Rees-Mogg and other backbenchers could overthrow Theresa May.

What needs to happen?

A challenge can be triggered if 15 percent of the Conservative MPs write a letter to the chairman of the influential “1922 Committee” [the parliamentary group of all backbench Conservative lawmakers] demanding a vote of confidence in the leader. The party currently has 315 MPs, so 48 would need to submit such letters.

Have any done so already?

Leading eurosceptic Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted his letter of no confidence on Thursday. “It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation,” he wrote.

Although lawmakers do not have to reveal their intentions, a total of 14 MPs have publicly confirmed they have sent their letter. Others may have also already done so privately. Only the chair of the committee, Graham Brady, knows the exact number.

What happens during a confidence vote?

Once the required number of no confidence letters is reached, Brady would announce a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. All Conservative MPs can vote, either in favor of or against the leader staying on. May would need a simple majority to win. That would currently mean 158 votes.

What happens next?

In the event of a victory, she remains in office and gets immunity from another formal challenge for a year. If she loses, she has to resign and is barred from standing in the ensuing leadership election. Her successor would also become prime minister.

A general election would not automatically be triggered.

The 1922 Committee, also known as “the 22”, is a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs that meets weekly when the Commons is sitting. Its chair, usually a senior MP, is elected by committee members and has considerable influence within the Parliamentary Party.

The 1922 Committee takes its name from a meeting of Conservative MPs in October 1922 which led to the end of the party’s coalition government with the Liberals.

What is the 1922 Committee?

The 1922 Committee’s main function is to keep the leadership of the party informed of the mood of Conservative backbenchers. The group meets every week when Parliament is in session and gives backbench Tory MPs the chance to air their concerns, report on constituency work and coordinate legislative agendas.

Its chair, usually a senior MP, is elected by committee members and has considerable influence within the parliamentary party.

Conservative cabinets and shadow cabinets are expected to take the views of the committee very seriously. If a Conservative leader were to lose the support of the committee, it could leave them in a vulnerable position.

 “It is the committee that assesses, organises and ballots on leadership challenges – meaning its power, when called upon, can be huge.”

Who chairs the 1922 Committee?

The current chairman is Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who was appointed in May 2010. Graham has previously served as a shadow minister, holding the schools, employment and Europe briefs.


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