Jacob Rees-Mogg warns Tories: It is now or never to oust Theresa May
Jacob Rees-Mogg today admitted he was struggling to get 48 Conservative MPs to join him in a bid to topple Theresa May - but warned colleagues it was now or never to do so.
The top Tory MP argued the Prime Minister would probably go on to fight the next election if she is not unseated now.
Last week the North East Somerset MP called on colleagues, angry at the draft Brexit deal agreed by Mrs May, to join him in handing in letters of no confidence in her leadership.
If 48 are handed in to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady a vote of no confidence would automatically be triggered, and the PM would need more than half of her MPs to back her to survive.
But after four days of tension in Westminster Mr Rees-Mogg accepted that his attempts, alongside allies on the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tories, had hit the rocks.
“Getting the 48 letters is showing to be quite difficult,” he admitted to journalists at an ERG event in central London today.
“So the idea that within a year you just repeat the process and then she would go at that point I don’t think that is realistic.
“I think the Prime Minister will lead the conservatives into the next election. And if you find MPs privately who think that is a good idea in any number I would be quite surprised.”
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he was not disappointed in Tories who told the ERG leaders they would submit letters of no-confidence then failed to do so.
He urged observers to be patient and suggested the upcoming Commons vote on the draft Brexit agreement would be decisive when it comes to the future of the PM.
Asked whether the attempt to unseat the Prime Minister was reminiscent of wartime sitcom Dad’s Army, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I have always admired Captain Mainwaring.”
One Tory MP told PoliticsHome last night: “It seems a weekend of phone begging by Rees-Mogg and [Boris] Johnson still hasn’t yielded results despite five weeks of hype, Even if they get the names it’s a pretty lame effort.”
Others laid into the timing of the move, with one former minister saying: “Waiting until she brings this withdrawal agreement out is too bloody late.”
They added: “We could have changed leader earlier - but doing it now will just make the party look completely shambolic – it’s like regicide.”
Mr Rees-Mogg made the comments as the ERG released a report claiming to “expose… baseless myths that underlie the fears and scare stories about leaving the EU customs union”.
It refuted claims a free trade arrangement with the EU would increase customs checks and hinder just-in-time supply chains businesses rely on to exchange goods across the Channel.