Theresa May has been given public backing from more than half of all Tory MPs ahead of the vote to decide on her fate.
More than 160 of the 317 Conservatives have declared they will support her in the confidence motion, enough to prevent the Prime Minister being ousted.
But the ballot will be conducted in secret and there have been claims some public declarations of support may not be guarantees the Prime Minister can count on.
And a narrow victory margin would not necessarily secure Mrs May’s survival as she may find it politically impossible to govern having lost the support of a substantial element of her party.
Every MP in the Cabinet has issued a message of support for the Prime Minister, along with senior Tories on the back benches.
I am backing the Prime Minister 100% - and I urge every Conservative MP to do the same. She is battling hard for our country and no one is better placed to ensure we deliver on the British peopleâs decision to leave the EU.— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) December 12, 2018
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a leading Brexiteer, said he was “backing the Prime Minister 100%”.
He said: “The one thing I would ask every Conservative MP to do is to ponder before they cast their vote this evening: If we don’t support the Prime Minister, then we risk derailing or diluting Brexit.
“If we do support the Prime Minister we can honour the mandate that the British people have given us.”
Iâve been clear for months that now isnât the time for the Conservatives to indulge in an ERG-led leadership contest. I will vote for @theresa_may tonight - but itâs also clear there has to be a full debate about tie Conservatives leadership & direction well before next election— Bns Morgan (Cotes) #HandsFaceSpace (@NickyMorgan01) December 12, 2018
Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said she would back the Prime Minister – but added: “It’s also clear there has to be a full debate about the Conservative leadership and direction well before (the) next election.”
We donât need to change PM but the PM must change course. Get the vote back next week. And when itâs lost take this matter back to the people. Itâs the only way out of #BrexitChaos & only way PM stays. @peoplesvote_uk— Anna Soubry (@Anna_Soubry) December 12, 2018
Remain-supporting Tory former minister Anna Soubry said she was “appalled and embarrassed” by events at Westminster.
“I am ashamed to call myself a Conservative given the irresponsible actions of a small group of Conservative MPs who have called a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister,” she said in an email to constituents.
“The last thing our country needs or wants is a change in Prime Minister.”
But Mrs May’s critics were also seeking to drum up support for their effort to depose her.
European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The country needs a new leader, it is time for Mrs May to resign.”
Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson said he would be voting for a “fresh start” because he feared if Mrs May carries on the Government would collapse, resulting in a general election and the possibility of a Labour victory.
My logic is this. If Mrs May remains PM and reintroduces her âdealâ, the DUP will not support us in a confidence vote. That will lead to an early General Election and risks a Corbyn government. I am voting against that prospect and for a fresh start.— Laurence Robertson (@lrobertsonTewks) December 12, 2018
Lee Rowley, MP for North East Derbyshire, said he would be “voting for change” as “we must aim higher”.
It's incredibly sad that it's come to this but we need to look to the future and how we get back on track with Brexit and making our country better. I will be voting for change tonight. We must aim higher.— Lee Rowley (@Lee4NED) December 12, 2018
Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns, who submitted one of the letters calling for a no confidence vote, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “What they say publicly is different to what they do because it’s a secret ballot.
“I have had people who I know very well – friends and colleagues – who have said ‘publicly they will say this’, but it has come to the stage where we need a new leader.”
She claimed there were “about six” ministers who had told her they would vote Mrs May out.