With Theresa May away in Davos this week, pressure has continued to mount on her at home. The latest drama begun with a tweet from Nick Boles who criticised the lack of ambition of the Government. This was followed by Sir Nicholas Soames who branded Theresa May’s vision as “dull, dull, dull.” The drama threatened to blow into a full-brown crisis when media reports indicated a vote of no confidence in Theresa May may be imminent.
Additionally, Theresa May has also had to deal with calls from Boris Johnson for more money for the NHS and Chancellor Philip Hammond angering Tory Brexiteers by calling for a soft Brexit. This caused new chairman of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg to intervene who called for a fundamental change in ministers tone on Brexit.
So how much trouble is the Prime Minister in? In regards to a vote of no confidence in her leadership, no-one can be totally sure. A quirk of the Conservative leadership system is that only the chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady will be aware of how many letters he has been sent calling for this vote. This vote would be triggered if Mr Brady receives 48 letters, 15% of the Conservative Parliamentary Party. It is hard to predict with any certainty how many letters Mr Brady has.
Events are starting to move in an ominous direction for the Prime Minister though. Firstly, the Brexiteers are starting to mobilise. Secondly, the criticism of May is becoming public. Thirdly, the botched reshuffle highlighted how little authority the Prime Minister has. This is a powerful combination. This led to Philip Hammond calling on rebel Tories to “stick with” Theresa May.
Theresa May’s position has been under threat since the disastrous General Election. Famously described by George Osborne as a “dead woman walking” on the weekend after the election, nothing has changed since then. Theresa May has always been at the whim of her backbenchers. If the mood is turning bleaker then Theresa May’s grip on power is likely to be fading fast.
What may save her, is the only thing that has been saving her to date, mainly the Conservative Party doesn’t want a leadership contest and there is no obvious replacement. However, this won’t last for ever. Theresa May and the Conservative leadership remain in a state of stasis. A leader with no vision and no plan will always be on borrowed time. And that is what it is increasingly feeling like with this Prime Minister.