Rumours have swirled through the corridors of Westminster this week that a coup against Theresa May might be close, after months of the beleaguered Prime Minister limping through the top job. If it does happen now, it will be death by a thousand (or perhaps a million) cuts, as there has been no one event in the last week that has triggered this. But the Government’s continued struggles to hold a coherent Brexit position, Cabinet meeting spats, and rumours about how many MPs have already written letters calling for a vote of no confidence, have made a tough job even tougher for Theresa.
The first thing to remember about the PM’s future is that it’s a question of when and not if. She is, as George Osborne remarked some time ago, a dead woman walking – her fate sealed from the moment the exit polls were released on the 8th of June last year. The Conservatives (brutal bunch that they are), have been keeping her alive purely so they can send her to the gallows at the right moment. And the main thing stopping them, and the reason that she may survive longer still, is the lack of an alternative leader who can unite the Government and the Party successfully and in turn beat the resurgent red flags of Corbyn.
Boris Johnson has damaged his own brand so badly over the last year that the likelihood of his being Prime Minister now seems slim. David Davis was a possibility, but as the current Brexit Secretary he shares as much of the blame for the Government’s handling of the issue as May does, so doesn’t represent much of a change. Michael Gove has staged a bit of a comeback in the last few months with his work as Environment Secretary, but is still undoubtedly a divisive figure. And then there is the bookies favourite: the left field Donald Trump style option of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has a large cult following among Tory members and right wing social media users, but also holds a number of unpopular and controversial views, which will turn many moderate Conservatives off. The newer guard are just that: too new to mount a compelling change and offer, or are being too obvious in simply saying ‘look at me’, as Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, has demonstrated.
The knives will come out against Theresa May. This week perhaps they have been sharpened. But we may have to wait for a more popular challenger to emerge, before the bloodbath begins.