ANALYSIS: Is Jeremy Corbyn the only thing standing between Theresa May and the sack?

Posted On: 
31st August 2017

Reaction among Tory MPs to Theresa May's announcement that she plans to lead the Tories into the next election has ranged from incredulity to weary acceptance.

Tory MPs fear a snap election against Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.
Credit: 
PA Images

One told me this morning: "Giving an end date is career death. Most of us just want her and the rest of government to get on with the job."

Others are more vituperative - but only if their names are not attached to the quotes.

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No one wants to break ranks by sticking their head above the parapet, thereby undermining the Government during the Brexit negotiations and - even worse - giving succour to the Labour party.

A former minister - by no means a member of the awkward squad - said May's insistence that she is going nowhere is as premature as it is tone deaf.

"She told us she was going to get us out of this mess. That's fine, but do it first and then say you're going to stay on for years," they said.

"What she's said is going to go down really badly. It implies that she's learned nothing. She needs to show a lot more humility and understanding of what's going on in the party. There's a lot of untapped anger that could break out at any time."

But what they told me next was particularly revealing: "There's a desire not to rock the boat because of Corbyn. If he wasn't doing so well it would be a different story."

An early election caused by the defenestration of the PM, so the theory goes, would pitch her successor against a Labour leader whose position is rock-solid and whom the Tories have failed to land a blow on since the last campaign.

What's more, Labour continue to poll over 40% - as do the Conservatives, to be fair - and appear to have the wind in their sails. The polling among 18-24 year-olds, who defied expectations to actually turn out on 8 June, is particularly brutal for the Tories.

Lord Heseltine - now answerable to no one and, lest we forget, sacked as a government adviser by May earlier this year - admitted the Corbyn factor is a problem, but insisted someone must find the courage to wield the dagger.

"The Tory party will have to decide whether they want a re-run of the contest against Jeremy Corbyn... my own guess is that they won't," he told the BBC.

"The long term is the difficult one for Theresa May because I don't think she has got a long-term. I think we face a general election in a couple of years."

Can it be that the man the Tories mocked mercilessly throughout the election is the only thing standing between May and a farewell speech on the steps of Number 10?