Theresa May will face a fresh challenge to her leadership after Conservative Party activists forced an emergency vote on her future.
The prime minister was informed by a top Tory official on Monday that enough of the party’s local constituency chairmen have now signed a petition to demand a vote on her leadership.
Such a vote would be the first time in the Tories’ 185-year history that the party’s grassroots have used an emergency general meeting of the National Conservative Convention to discuss a leader’s position.
The move has been prompted by local Tory anger at Mrs May’s handling of Brexit, which she has now delayed for a second time while she continues to engage in cross-party talks on a withdrawal deal with Labour.
The prime minister was reported by The Sun to have been told the news by Andrew Sharpe, chairman of the National Conservative Convention, after the petition was signed by 70 constituency chairmen to pass the 10% threshold of all 650 constituency parties.
According to the newspaper, a minimum of 28 days’ notice must be given to hold an emergency meeting – at which Mrs May has been invited to speak – once a venue is found, meaning it is likely to take place in early June.
This means it will happen after this week’s local elections and next month’s European Parliament elections.
The petition had been organised by Dinah Glover, chairman of the Bethnal Green and Bow Conservative Association.
Explaining the reasons for organising the move against the prime minister, she said last week: “We have come to the conclusion that Mrs May, rather than being the solution to Brexit, is actually the block to Brexit.”
A senior Downing Street source played down the significance of the move by Tory activists, pointing out any vote wouldn’t be binding even if it happens and it is not yet clear whether grassroots officials would actually vote against Mrs May.
In December, the prime minister survived a confidence vote among Tory MPs meaning she cannot face another formal challenge from among her parliamentarians for another seven months.
Last week, the Conservative 1922 Committee rejected efforts to change leadership rules to allow Mrs May to face another confidence vote before her immunity from the last vote elapses.
But the committee called for the prime minister to set out a clearer timetable for her departure.