25 MPs needed for confidence vote

As chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Michael Spicer must call a vote of confidence in the party leader once he receives requests from 15% of Conservative MPs.

That means just 25 are currently needed to trigger the ballot of the parliamentary party.

Mr Duncan Smith needs a straight majority - 83 - to survive under the rules introduced by his predecessor William Hague to shore up his own leadership.

If he fails he will be ineligible to stand in the ensuing contest, which could be long and bloody.

The contenders face a series of votes by fellow Tory MPs with the person receiving the lowest amount removed in each round until just two remain.

The final pair then face off in a nationwide ballot of ordinary Conservative Party members.

Mr Duncan Smith was one of five who competed to succeed Mr Hague in a bruising contest that lasted three months.

However, that could be avoided if MPs managed to settle on a "dream ticket" of leader and deputy leader that unites the party.

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