Labour will table a no confidence motion in Boris Johnson’s government today, challenging Tory MPs to remove the outgoing prime minister while they hold a leadership contest.
The opposition party are seeking to hold the vote on Wednesday, Labour sources have said.
It will be a tough vote for Tory MPs, many of who have publicly stated that Mr Johnson does not have their support and should leave, but if they vote with Labour they could trigger a general election.
The next prime minister is not expected to be announced until Monday, September 5.
Sir Keir Starmer had previously threatened to bring the confidence vote to prevent “this nonsense about clinging on for a few months”.
“He’s inflicted lies, fraud and chaos in the country,” the Labour leader said last week.
“If they don’t get rid of him then Labour will step up, in the national interest, and bring a vote of no confidence, because we can’t go on with this prime minister clinging on for months and months to come.”
What is a vote of no confidence?
MPs across all parties are asked to vote on whether they support the prime minister and believe the government should continue as it is.
It would require a simple majority to pass or fail and a motion of no confidence could trigger a general election.
What are the possible outcomes?
No confidence votes are rarely successful. The last government defeated by a no-confidence motion was in 1979, when Labour was defeated by 311 votes to 310.
If Mr Johnson wins the majority of votes, the government will continue as it is until his replacement is announced in September.
Should the Tory leader lose the vote, it's likely that Parliament would be dissolved and a general election could be called, or the Queen could invite someone else to form a government on the basis they could win a vote of confidence in the House.
Mr Johnson has resigned and the timetable for a replacement is in place, so discontent over the prime minister within the party has been appeased. That the motion is in Labour’s name makes Tory support even less likely.
However, last month 41% of the prime minister's own MPs tried to remove him in a confidence vote. Labour’s bid will force leadership contenders and their colleagues - many of who have publicly voiced their lack of faith in Mr Johnson - to put on record whether they believe him remaining as prime minister for the next two months is in the country's best interests.
If they vote against him they risk triggering a general election that may not go in the party's favour. If the majority support the PM, Tory MPs leave themselves open to accusations of putting the party before the electorate.
It comes as the first candidates in the race to replace Mr Johnson are likely to be knocked out of the running today, when nominations to be the next leader of the Conservative Party open and close.
On Tuesday morning Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pulled out of the running to replace Mr Johnson and pledged his support to former chancellor Rishi Sunak.
He was one of the 11 hopefuls who will be whittled down to the final two by next Thursday, under rules set out by the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
In order to stand, a candidate will need the support of 20 MPs – potentially making it harder for some of the less well-known contenders to make it onto the ballot paper.
It is thought Mr Shapps withdrew from the race as he was unlikely to get the required number of backers.
The first ballot of MPs will then take place on Wednesday, with any candidate who fails to get at least 30 votes expected to drop out.
On Monday's News At Ten ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston outlined the process to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister
A second ballot will follow on Thursday with further ballots to be held next week until the list of candidates is whittled down to a final two – who will go forward into a postal ballot of party members with the outcome revealed in September, when MPs return to Westminster following their summer break.
Chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady said it was a “perfectly reasonable” timetable that would allow hustings to take place around the country over the summer.
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The 1922 Committee is the governing body of the the parliamentary Tory party, which represents its backbenchers and effectively acts as its HR department.
For the previous leadership contest the committee agreed the contenders would need nominations from eight Tory MPs in order to get their name on the ballot, however a higher threshold was decided because of a desire for quick contest.
There are now currently 10 candidates battling for nominations from their colleagues.
Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are the only candidates so far to have passed the threshold of nominations, meaning their names are certain to be on the first ballot of Tory MPs.
There is still time for other hopefuls to throw their hat into the ring and several are said to be considering it.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is reportedly debating whether to enter the race and there is speculation that Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee, could too.
Those entering the race at such a late stage may struggle to win support from their colleagues, given so many have already picked a side.
Any hopefuls who do not reach the threshold of nominations will be booted from the race and their backers will have to throw their weight behind someone else.
Reaching the debate may prove difficult for Rehman Chishti, the latest Tory to join the race, due to his very low profile.
Mr Chishti said the right candidate would have “a proven track record of coming to the table with ideas and creativity to help improve people’s lives”, but so far hasn't secured any nominations.
In 2019, ITV's Conservative leadership debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt was watched by 4.4 million viewers. It was hosted by presenter Julie Etchingham. ITV has not yet revealed who will host the debate this time. It will be held at ITV's White City studios.
Michael Jermey, ITV's Director of News and Current Affairs said: "Television debates at important elections help voters engage with politics.
"ITV has been the home of some of the biggest political debates over the past decade.
"Sunday's debate will be an important event as the country's next prime minister is chosen."