The knives have been out for David Cameron today. The Sunday Telegraph splashed on Priti Patel saying that he is too rich to care about immigration; the Sunday Times on a letter to the PM, signed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, calling his failure on the migration target ‘corrosive of public trust in politics’. And the Sunday Times quoted a Tory MP saying ‘I don’t want to stab the prime minister in the back — I want to stab him in the front so I can see the expression on his face… You’d have to twist the knife, though, because we want it back for [George] Osborne’. Yikes!
The morning’s papers were just the start. Backbencher Andrew Bridgen has been doling out soundbites about Cameron being ‘finished’ and he said ‘whatever the result [of the referendum], I believe his position will be untenable’. Then on ITV’s Peston on Sunday Nadine Dorries said that Cameron has ‘lied profoundly’ during the campaign and because of that ‘trust has been absolutely shattered in both David Cameron and George Osborne in the Conservative Party’. She revealed that she’s sent a letter to Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Although, given her longstanding criticism of him, she probably sent her letter some time ago.
So will the Brexiteers come for Cameron if they lose the vote? Dorries is one of about 30 who want him gone regardless, but 50 letters would be needed to trigger a confidence vote. As as James Forsyth has argued, how would that make the Tories look? Like a team that lost on the pitch, only to try to beat up the other side’s captain in the changing room.
In response to today’s open hostilities William Hill has cut their odds on Cameron going this year down to 2/1; a one-in-three chance. And it could happen: as James said last month that even if the Prime Minister wins the referendum, he may end up with a Tory knife in his back. His party are world leaders in regicide: it’s an act they’ve performed many times. And Labour’s woes actually embolden some of the Tory rebels – it’s said that each half of the party thinks it could lose without the other half. So Jeremy Corbyn may end up destroying the Tories after all.