Next Tory leader might not become PM, say constitutional experts

The next Tory leader doesn't automatically become PM, say two constitutional scholars. Picture: PA/T

The next Tory leader doesn't automatically become PM, say two constitutional scholars. Picture: PA/Tim Ireland - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Constitutional experts have suggested that the next Conservative leaders may not automatically become prime minister due to the threats such as a vote of no confidence.

Professors at University College London (UCL) have pointed out that the next Tory leader still needs to be able to command the confidence of the house to automatically become the next PM.

Theresa May has a majority of just three, including the DUP, and some Tory MPs have hinted they would consider not supporting a new government.

Both Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke have said they would vote against their party to avoid a no-deal Brexit, while the leadership contest itself saw two spoilt ballots in the final round of MPs' voting.

On the other hand, some pro-Brexit Labour rebels might lend their support, making up the numbers.

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A lost no confidence vote would trigger a general election if the government could not regain confidence within the next 14 days, for example by pledging to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Alternatively, if a no confidence vote was not put forward, but there was still uncertainty around the new Tory leader commanding the confidence of the house, the Queen could make a provisional appointment to the job of prime minister, "conditional on the new PM demonstrating confidence", wrote the professors.

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"If there are serious doubts, the Queen may need to ask Theresa May to remain in office while Parliament determines who is best placed to command confidence," they said.

But there may not be time for the new PM to achieve this before the summer recess on July 25.

"It seems extraordinary that parliament should rise for the summer recess just two days after the election of the new Tory leader," said professor Russell.

"At a time of national crisis it is urgent to have an opportunity to test whether the new leader can command the confidence of parliament. The house may need to sit into the following week if the new PM is to demonstrate confidence, and support for his Brexit strategy. Otherwise this will remain in doubt, which will invite immediate demands for parliament to be recalled, and also weaken his position when negotiating with the EU."

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