I wonder whether Theresa May is considering doing a John Major. OK, it wouldn’t be the first time, I hear you snigger at the back. Could she be considering calling a ‘put up or shut up’ vote of confidence in her time. It would be done on the basis that the ‘leadership issue’ boil needs to be lanced at some point, and it would be better done at a time of the PM’s choosing rather than that of the European Research Group.
Downing Street will have been shocked that according to various journalistic reports a lot of time was spent at their meeting on Tuesday night discussing the leadership question. Fifty MPs were present and not one stood up for the prime minister. I am as opposed to Chequers as anyone at that meeting, but I cannot understand the logic of any MP who thinks a change of leader as we enter the most important six weeks of the Brexit negotiations would be a good idea.
I interviewed Andrew Bridgen on Wednesday, an MP who openly admits he has sent a letter of no confidence to the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady. At least he’s honest about it, I suppose. I’m not sure, he’s thought it through though.
Say there was a vote of confidence next week and Theresa May lost it (which I doubt she would). What happens then? Another coronation? Because if it isn’t a coronation, then there is only one option – extend Article 50 beyond March next year – and there isn’t a potential leadership candidate who would survive agreeing to that. Opponents of Theresa May need to explain how they would get around that, because I for one can’t see a way.
As I understand the leadership election rules, if Theresa May called a confidence vote in herself and won it, even if 48 MPs put in letters early next year, a new vote could not be called for twelve months after the last one. Will Theresa May call her opponents’ bluff? Well, last time she took a risk and called an election, it didn’t quite work out how she had intended. She would need a lot of convincing by her advisers, I suspect. But I wouldn’t rule it out. And the time to do it, assuming the conference goes OK for her, would be straight afterwards.
Stand by your beds.