As the dust settles after Theresa May’s calamitous conference speech, rumours are flying that she could soon be forced out by Tory backbenchers.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that a group of as-yet unnamed “Tory rebels” have said there is a "50/50 chance they will confront the Prime Minister in the next three days and demand that she steps down before the end of the year”.
Despite the party rallying in support of May following her speech, which has been labelled one of the most disastrous in living memory, the London Evening Standard claims that five former cabinet ministers are among a 30-strong group of MPs planning to send a delegation to Downing Street to ask her to set out a timetable for her departure.
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Under Tory party rules, 48 MPs would need to write to the party’s backbench 1922 Committee expressing no confidence in the PM in order to trigger a leadership contest.
However, according to the Telegraph, the plotters are planning an “alternative strategy”, and are trying to gather support to approach May privately and persuade her to stand aside.
“It has to be all or nothing,” one of the Tory MPs said. “We can’t have a situation where a few go public with their criticism and the rest fade away. There is a small window of opportunity here, more people are coming forward”.
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says this group will only act if they feel they have the numbers to do so “quickly and cleanly”, adding: “It is just not clear at the moment where the numbers really lie.”
Former cabinet minister Ed Vaizey, who was sacked by May last July, was the first senior Tory MP to publically call for her to go. Speaking to BBC Radio Oxford yesterday, he said most people were being “pretty loyal” in public, but were “very concerned” in private.
“I think there will be quite a few people who will now be pretty firmly of the view that she should resign”, he said.
Vaizey’s comments came as a former minister said May had gone into the party conference two crises away from needing to go, according to The Guardian, and now had one chance left.
Another senior Conservative told the Evening Standard: “We all realise the game is up. It would be better if she were to start the process, with a new leader before Christmas.”
However, CNN’s John McTernan insists that despite her diminished authority following her decision to call an early election that lost the Tories their majority, and the criticism she faced for her handling of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, “as things stand, it seems highly likely that [she] is going to remain in place”.
The reason, says McTernan, are threefold: first, “fear that the that divisions within the Conservative Party that would be revealed by a leadership contest would only add to speculation that the Government is close to being too unstable to run a country”.
Second, the lack of a viable consensus candidate that would unite the disparate wings of the party and deliver on Brexit.
And third, and perhaps most importantly, fear that the turmoil of a leadership battle could cause the collapse of the Government and hand the keys of No. 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.
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