Theresa May has survived a no-confidence vote in her government and fended off Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to force a general election.
MPs voted by a slim margin of 19 votes to express their confidence in the prime minister’s government despite her historic defeat on her Brexit deal a day earlier. The result was expected after Brexit supporting-politicians who opposed her deal in large numbers nevertheless backed her government to continue.
May said immediately after the vote she would embark on a round of cross-party talks to find a way out of the Brexit deadlock amid suggestions from cabinet ministers that she could be edging towards a softer withdrawal from the EU.
Labour policy prioritizes forcing a general election, though Corbyn is coming under intensifying pressure to explicitly back a second referendum. 71 Labour MPs have called for Corbyn to “unequivocally” back a second referendum now that his no-confidence motion has failed.
“We shouldn’t have any further delay,” Louise Ellman, a senior Labour lawmaker, said. “The clock is ticking. It’s just over 70 days to go before we actually leave the EU. We can’t afford to do that, so Jeremy must act now.”
But senior party figures indicated he was ready to table repeated no-confidence challenges and therefore stall the process by which he could be forced to back another referendum.
Opening the debate on the no-confidence motion, Corbyn urged May’s “zombie government” to stand aside and declared her “Frankenstein” Brexit deal officially dead.
He attacked the PM for presiding over “the largest defeat in the history of our democracy” on her Brexit deal before saying there has been no offer of all-party talks from the prime minister to break the impasse.
He also criticized the government record on issues beyond leaving the EU before facing Tory taunts, with former minister Anna Soubry labelling him the “most hopeless leader of the opposition we’ve ever had.”
Responding, May dismissed his call for a general election saying it would be “the worst thing we could do.”
“It would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward,” she told MPs.
Meanwhile, former Labour MP John Woodcock, who quit the party while suspended amid harassment allegations, did not support the no-confidence motion because Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell “are simply not fit to hold public office.”
“The public deserve so much better than this choice in the broken political system than they are being given,” he said.