Theresa May has survived an attempt to oust her from the British prime ministership, winning a secret ballot of her MPs 200 to 117.
However, her critics immediately demanded she stand down, declaring her victory too narrow to maintain her authority.
“A significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I’ve listened to what they said,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May after winning a secret ballot 200 to 117.
The result, anounced by Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 backbench committee at 9pm local time, is one vote higher than the votes May received in the second round of the leadership contest she eventually won unchallenged in 2016,
But it means that more than a third of her partyroom opposes her leadership.
Crucially, the number of MPs who voted against May suggests opposition to her extends beyond the Eurosceptic European Reform Group led by the influential backbencher and hard Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Speaking outside Number 10, May said she was pleased to have received the backing of her colleagues but conceded the result was closer than she would have liked.
“While I’m grateful for that support a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I’ve listened to what they’ve said,” she said.
May called for unity and said she would seek further “political and legal assurances” from Europe over the controversial Northern Ireland backstop to assuage MPs’ concerns. But the future of her Brexit deal remains just as unclear with no guarantee she can get it through parliament.
Mogg demanded her immediate resignation, despite her victory.
“It is a terrible result for the prime minister,” he told BBC Television. “The prime minister must realise that, under all constitutional norms, she ought to go and see the queen urgently and resign.”
“We are a democratic party and I accept the result,” said backbencher Steve Double. “However the margin should send a clear message to the leadership that over one-third of MPs have serious concerns that need to be addressed,” he said.
“Now is the time to unite and get on and deliver Brexit,” said Will Quince who resigned a junior position over her Brexit deal.
“I look forward to the EU Withdrawal Agreement coming before the Commons in the New Year but importantly with the legally binding solution that will make the backstop temporary,” he said.
Under the conservative party’s leadership rules, May cannot be challenged for another 12 months.
But earlier she suggested that she would not seek to lead the Tories into the next election, conceding to a meeting of her backbench MPs that she realised they did not want her to head another campaign following her disastrous one in 2017.
The attempted leadership spill was brought on by a rump of Eurosceptic MPs led by the influential backbencher and chair of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Earlier the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, called them extremists and said they would be flushed out in the vote.
Mogg hit back at that characterisation.
He was the one who began four weeks ago to gather the 48 letters required to trigger a vote of confidence in the leader. But May’s decision to delay the vote on her beleaguered Brexit deal in the House of Commons provided a catalyst for more MPs to lodge their letters.
Late on Tuesday, Sir Graham Brady informed the prime minister by telephone that the 15 per cent threshold had been reached requiring a ballot. Early on Wednesday morning London time, he announced there would be a two-hour vote at six o’clock that evening.
Outside Number 10, May said a leadership change would throw Brexit into chaos as any new leader would either have to delay or rescind Article 50, the legal clause that sets Britain’s departure from the EU for March 29, 2019.
The entire cabinet publicly supported May, including key Brexiteers Liam Fox and Michael Gove.