ANALYSIS: Tory MPs are having another wobble, but Theresa May is safe for now

Posted On: 
25th January 2018

Tory MPs, according to a senior minister, "seem to be very unsettled after the New Year".

Theresa May is facing more rumblings about her leadership.
Credit: 
PA Images

That is not good news for Theresa May, but it need not be fatal. Yet.

As we reported last night, the question of the Prime Minister's future is still at the forefront of Conservatives' minds.

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The local council elections on 3 May - and the prospect of swathes of blue seats turning red - are seen by many MPs as her "moment of maximum danger".

Even nominally supportive colleagues acknowledge that if the party suffers a meltdown at the ballot box - the loss of Westminster and Wandsworth Councils is cited by many - that could be the trigger for a putsch.

Others point to the shambolic Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month - in which Jeremy Hunt refused to be moved as Health Secretary and Justine Greening walked rather than go to the DWP - as the moment when their lingering support for the PM evaporated. Her apparent desire to defy the conventional wisdom and stay in the job for the long-haul has also convinced some that they need to remove her soon.

According to The Sun this morning, the number of letters declaring no confidence in May which have been sent to Graham Brady, chairman of the Tories' backbench 1922 committee, is perilously close to the 48 needed to trigger a vote which could bring her down.

Brady - who has only just been knighted by the Conservative leader - is said to be "ashen-faced" at the prospect. Sources close to the highly-regarded MP insist the reports are wide of the mark.

But another senior figure told PoliticsHome: "I've heard it's true and Brady's very rattled by it."

One minister who supported May to become leader in 2016, says the latest revolt "has sort of come out of nowhere".

"People seem to very unsettled after the New Year," they said. "There's a bit of a vacuum at the moment in the EU process, which might account for it."

However, the minister also agreed that should May's Brexit negotiations disappoint Tory eurosceptics - led by an emboldened Jacob Rees-Mogg - that could simply stir up yet more trouble for her.

Her saving grace, however, remains the fact that Tory MPs cannot agree on a successor. David Davis is seen as the most likely challenger were she to be brought down this year, but would the likes of Boris Johnson or Amber Rudd allow a coronation to take place?

For now, Tory MPs seem happy to cling to nurse for fear of something worse. They are undoubtedly having another wobble, but Theresa May is safe. For now.