politics

When was the last time a UK Prime Minister faced a vote of no confidence?


IT is rare for a UK Prime Minister to undergo the stress and humiliation of losing a vote of no confidence.

Theresa May was the last to survive the dreaded vote, but many other embattled PMs have faced it over the years.

 Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence in 2018, but resigned the following year

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Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence in 2018, but resigned the following yearCredit: EPA

When was the last time a Prime Minister faced a vote of no confidence?

Theresa May was the last Prime Minister to face a vote of no confidence, in December 2018.

The former PM managed to win the support of 200 Conservative MPs, but a third of her own MPs voted against her.

The vote was triggered when 48 MPs angry at May’s Brexit policy, sent letters of no confidence to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

Speaking in Downing Street after the vote, she said: “While I am grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues have cast their votes against me and I have listened to what they have said.”

On May 24, 2019, Mrs May resigned from her position, a decision triggered by a meeting with Brady who warned her of a new no-confidence vote.

Prior to that a vote of no confidence in a British Parliament occurred nearly 25 years ago, when in 1993, John Major‘s Conservative government tabled a motion of confidence in itself.

The then PM called the vote to secure the support of Tory MPs, following the government’s defeat on the controversial Maastricht Treaty Social Chapter, which turned the European Community into the European Union.

Which Prime Ministers have faced a vote of no confidence?

It is extremely rare for Prime Ministers to lose a no confidence motion.

Since World War 2, this has only happened on one occasion.

 Labour PM Jim Callaghan lost a vote of no confidence by a single vote in 1979

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Labour PM Jim Callaghan lost a vote of no confidence by a single vote in 1979Credit: Hulton Archive – Getty

In 1979, then opposition leader Margaret Thatcher brought the vote of no confidence against the former Labour PM James “Jim” Callaghan.

He lost by a single vote, 311 to 310.

This vote would prove decisive – forcing a general election that swept Thatcher to power and would keep her there for the next 11 years.

Before that, the last time an election was forced was in 1924, when Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, also lost in a vote of no confidence.

Here is a list of PMs who faced a confidence motion since 1924:

  • Theresa May (2018)
  • John Major (1992), (1993)
  • Margaret Thatcher (1980), (1981), (1985), (1990)
  • Jim Callaghan (1976), (1977), (1979 – lost)
  • Sir Edward Heath (1972), (1973)
  • Harold Wilson (1964), (1965), (1967)
  • Harold Macmillan (1962)
  • Sir Anthony Eden (1956)
  • Sir Winston Churchill (1952)
  • Clement Attlee (1945)
  • Neville Chamberlain (1940)
  • Ramsay MacDonald (1924 – lost)
  • Stanley Baldwin (1924 – lost)

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