Tories Plotting Against Theresa May
A letter of no confidence is allegedly circulating among Tory MPs who are conspiring to overthrow Theresa May. The coup against the PM is believed to occur after the summer recess when MPs return to parliament in September. From David Davis to Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond, candidates for the Tory leadership are already pointing fingers and supporting their own view on Brexit.
Theresa May has sought to unite her cabinet by urging them to show “strength and unity,” take their responsibilities seriously and end the “backbiting” over their differences. On Monday, she told the party “no backbiting, no carping,” and that their choice was, simply, her “or Jeremy Corbyn…and nobody wants that.” She requested that they should go for a “proper break,” and “come back ready for serious business.” Today, she reminded them that there was “a need to show strength and unity around the country and that starts around the cabinet table."
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, defended May’s approach and said that she was “absolutely right” to tell MPs that “what is said in the cabinet should stay in the cabinet.”
But there are many Tory MPs who want her gone by Christmas and others who are saying that “she made her bed and should lie in it.” At the same time, most of the Tories are aware that another general election will damage the party as they fear that Corbyn might be holding the keys to No10.
But as the Guardian indicated, the “frenzy of anonymous briefings and counter-briefing by allies of cabinet ministers over the weekend suggests they are already squaring up for a possible leadership contest and battle over the future of Brexit.” For example, Hammond was the victim of cabinet leaks because he is viewed as a soft Brexit proponent and a danger to all Brexiteers. A cabinet colleague said that Hammond wanted to “frustrate Brexit” and that Brexiteers were seen as “pirates.”
At the moment, the infighting has split the Conservatives into Remainers and Leavers, but also into those who can or cannot offer a credible and strong solution to the current political landscape, with some of them arguing that Davis is probably the best choice for PM, if May loses her leadership.
Hammond calls for Softer Brexit
Hammond is one of the Tories that is vying for the Tory leadership and whose views are on the softer side of Brexit. A cabinet minister told the Telegraph that he sees pro-leave ministers as “pirates who have taken him prisoner,” and he referred to Hammond and his Treasury as the “establishment” who are trying to frustrate Brexit.
The “feud at the heart of the Tory party,” as the Daily Mail described it, with Hammond at the centre of it, has led some Tories to ask May to “sack feuding ministers in a bid to instill discipline as civil war breaks out among top-tier Conservatives.”
According to the Daily Mail, an anonymous minister explained that all these rebels in the Tory party, “the Establishment, the Treasure, is trying to f*** it up. They want to frustrate Brexit.” Another member said that May is informed that “the membership are tired of self-indulgent ministers plotting or going AWOL on collective responsibility and that she should tell ministers this.”
But, the accounts coming out of these meetings are “quite extraordinary,” as Corbyn said, because the situation is quite extraordinary. With sixty leading figures calling for Brexit to be halted, according to the BBC, and the main parties struggling to make sense of Brexit, it is fair to say that MPs will have their differences and separate views on the UK’s grand exit from the EU.
Since many are warning that a hard Brexit will be the biggest threat to the economy, not to mention the arduous and long process of disentangling UK laws from EU laws, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Philip Hammond feels the same.
One of the soft Brexit supporters, Labour MP Chris Leslie, agreed today that it would be “welcome news” if Hammond did pursue a longer transitional period that would retain the UK within the single market after Brexit. He added that such a position would easily gain “support on all sides of the House.” Hammond agreed with Leslie and said: “In an issue as important to our nation’s future as our exit from the European Union, I welcome any opportunity to build consensus across the House and across the nation.”
Heseltine against May’s approach
For Lord Heseltine, the Conservative former deputy prime minister, May’s call for unity will fail because her position isn’t secure and that divisions will only get worse.
He told Sky’s All Out Politics this morning that May’s leadership is weak and her government deeply divided. Her ministers, Lord Heseltine said, “are jockeying for [her] position. There is no serious body of thought which says that Theresa May is going to lead the Conservatives into the next general election. There is no serious support for that position. So, that means there’s a vacancy. They don’t know when ...[there will be a] vacancy, but the players - either directly themselves or, more likely, through their acolytes, are out their [sic] canvassing.”
He predicted that things were “going to get worse. There is an irreconcilable division within the cabinet, within the party and within the country. And there is nothing you can do but face up to that. It is damaging, yes. It could help Mr Corbyn into Number 10, yes. But that is the nature of the divisiveness of the disastrous Brexit decision.”
Heseltine expressed the possibility of a Brexit reversal, but only if Labour didn’t support Brexit anymore. He said: “What I see happening now is a general election in 18 months, two years’ time. The Labour party, at the moment, appear to be supporting Brexit. But if as I think events over the next 18 months erode the Brexit support, because they will just one after the other reveal how bad Brexit is, and how undermining of British self interest it is, if that changes public opinion, then my guess is, surprise, surprise, it will change the Labour party’s position."
With the Tories being weak and the Brexit negotiations possibly leading to an impasse, politicians are becoming more open to the possibility of a total reversal of Brexit. However, as it is at the moment, the situation depends on the wider political establishment and how much the opposition is willing to break the Brexiteers’ air-conditioned and insulated vision of Brexit.