How would a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson's government work, and will he win?

Dating service

Jeremy Corbyn has called on opposition party leaders and MPs to support a Labour-led vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson's government.

The Labour leader says that removing the Conservative Party from power would allow him to become the prime minister temporarily, and use the office to prevent a no-deal Brexit from taking place. 

Earlier this month Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that Mr Corbyn was unsuitable to be prime minister if Mr Johnson was successfully ousted, and suggested Labour and Conservative party grandees Harriet Harman and Ken Clarke as possible alternatives.

Any replacement of Mr Johnson as prime minister would require a majority of MPs to vote against the Government in a confidence vote

But what is a no-confidence vote, and how could it take place before Oct 31?

Father of the House Ken Clarke was fingered as a possible temporary prime minister by Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson Credit:  Luke MacGregor/Reuters

What is a vote of no confidence?

A vote of no confidence is a vote among MPs in the House of Commons to signal that members believe that the Government should be removed from power.

It is used as a mechanism for triggering a general election, as it signals that the Government no longer has a majority in the Commons.

In order to bring a vote to the floor of the Commons, MPs must table a motion that reads: "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government."

Jeremy Corbyn has called for a no-confidence vote Credit:  HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Traditionally, there have been other methods of signalling a lack of confidence in the Government, such as a majority of MPs voting against a government's budget or the Queen's Speech.

This method of indicating a lack of confidence has not been tested since the advent of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2011, and there is some debate between MPs and academics over whether the failure of a budget would allow Parliament to be legally dissolved.

The vote

If a motion of no confidence is tabled by the leader of the opposition, parliamentary convention says the Government should allow the vote to take place. 

MPs vote on the motion following no less than 90 minutes of debate, and it is passed if a simple majority of members vote with it - or in other words, against the Government.

The Labour Party's current plan to initiate a no-confidence vote against the Government would require the support of other opposition parties, and Conservative MPs.

Boris Johnson, visiting a hospital in Truro, has rejected calls for a recall of parliament Credit:  SIMON DAWSON/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Remainer MPs and Tory rebels to "get on board" with his plans to seize power.

Historically, votes of no confidence typically fail because the government of the day has a majority in parliament.

Boris Johnson's government has an operating majority of just one, making it more likely that it could be vulnerable to a no-confidence motion.

What if the Government wins the vote?

If the motion fails, the Government is presumed to have the confidence of the House and is allowed to continue to govern.

What if the Government loses the vote?

If the Government loses a vote of no confidence then the Prime Minister is expected to resign. There is no law that  requires the incumbent to leave, but it is assumed that leaders cannot continue to govern without a majority in the Commons.

If the leader of the opposition has a clear majority among MPs, then they can ask the Queen for permission to form a new government.

But in the event of a no-confidence vote being called while the Government has a majority, it is unlikely that MPs for the governing party would give their support for the leader of the opposition to become prime minister immediately.

John McDonnell said it was the role of the leader of the opposition to become prime minister if a no-confidence motion is passed Credit: Geoff Caddick/PA

Jeremy Corbyn is appealing to MPs in opposition parties to support him as a caretaker prime minister to stop a no-deal Brexit.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said it is the role of leader of the opposition to represent opposition parties in 10 Downing Street in the event that the Government falls.

What if the opposition doesn't have a majority either?

If the Government loses a vote of no confidence, and there is no clear majority for a new government led by the opposition, then a 14-day process is triggered in which both government and opposition seek a majority in the House of Commons. 

This 14-day provision is constitutionally unprecedented, and has never happened before under the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

If the Government can convince enough MPs to support it during the two-week period, the House of Commons can pass a new motion that states it has confidence in the Government.

If this happens, the Government continues to govern as before.

If the leader of the opposition can secure a majority for a new government from MPs, they can go to Buckingham Palace and ask the Queen to appoint them the new prime minister.

Jeremy Corbyn says that if he was appointed prime minister in this two-week period, he would call a snap general election to form a new government and stop a no-deal Brexit from taking place.

But if, after two weeks, neither the current prime minister nor any other MP can secure a majority for their government in the House of Commons, then a general election is triggered anyway.

General election

A general election must take place at least seven weeks after the no-confidence motion passes, which allows parties enough time to campaign.

If the general election creates a majority in the House of Commons, the leader of the largest party can ask the Queen to form a government. Margaret Thatcher won a majority following a successful vote of no confidence against Jim Callaghan in 1979, as did Stanley Baldwin following a vote of no confidence in Labour on the issue of the Campbell case in 1924.

If a majority is not created by a general election, a minority government or coalition can be formed in the usual way.

Margaret Thatcher formed a government following a general election triggered by a no confidence vote in James Callaghan's Labour government in 1979 Credit: Hulton Archive/ Tim Graham

When could a no-confidence vote happen?

Parliament is in recess until Sept 3, so a no-confidence vote cannot be tabled for at least two weeks.

The Queen has then announced that Parliament will be suspended from the second week in September to October 14, so MPs would have to act quickly.

Jeremy Corbyn says if he were appointed prime minister in the 14-day period immediately following the vote, he would delay Brexit and call a snap general election as early as possible.

If neither Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson is able to form a majority of MPs that support them as prime minister, then a general election would take place at least 25 days after the vote.

Legally, the election must take place "as soon as practicable," but the date would be announced by the Queen on recommendation of Mr Johnson, who would still be the incumbent prime minister.

In order to create more time for a new prime minister to stop no deal, 100 MPs have sent a letter to Mr Johnson demanding that he recall Parliament.

Dominic Grieve was among the signatories of a letter calling for a recall of parliament Credit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

The letter's signatories include several Labour MPs and the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Change UK and Green Party.

Tory MPs Guto Bebb and Dominic Grieve have also signed it.

John McDonnell has also said he supported the letter and wanted to see Parliament recalled.

If successful, a recall could see any potential no-confidence vote happen earlier, but it requires the prime minister to agree.

Boris Johnson remains prime minister, for now Credit: PA/Downing Street

It seems unlikely Mr Johnson would agree to bring Parliament back earlier, since it makes the possibility of a pre-October 31 general election more likely.

An election before Brexit would force the Conservative Party to fight the election on two fronts, with both the Brexit Party and potential opposition Remain alliance proposing alternative Brexit outcomes.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The House of Commons agreed the date it would rise for summer recess, as well as its return on 3 September and this was passed by a majority of close to 200 MPs."