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Tory MPs are worried Theresa May wants to fight the next election

25 January 2018

12:13 PM

25 January 2018

12:13 PM

Theresa May remains in place because there is still no agreed successor, I say in the magazine this week. As one senior Tory backbencher put it to me, ‘We take the view that while things are bloody awful, we don’t want to risk making things worse’.

So does this mean that despite all the drama of the last seven days, nothing has changed? Well, no—I think some things have changed. First, nearly all Tories now agree that the May government is listless. Perhaps the more remarkable thing about the reaction to that Nick Boles tweet is how no one is really trying to argue with the substance of it. Even some of May’s most loyal supporters admit that the government doesn’t have much of a domestic agenda; they blame this on how all-consuming Brexit is.

Second, there’s a growing consensus that the Number 10 operation isn’t working as it should. One confidant of the Prime Minister tells me that even ‘she doesn’t take the view that everything is functioning ideally’. But whether this prompts her to shake things up or not, remains to be seen.

Third, the reshuffle has prompted concern that May really might be thinking about fighting the next election; something that many Tories from the Cabinet down would resist vigorously. The theory goes that the decision not to promote able and ambitious 2010ers such as Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart to the Cabinet, which would let them establish themselves as credible leadership candidates, and to try and make the focus of the reshuffle the 2015 and 2017 intakes, who won’t be ready for high office until the end of this parliament at the earliest, was an attempt to extend her shelf life.

Those hoping that Theresa May is going to change are going to be disappointed. She isn’t going to somehow transform herself into a charismatic radical. But the government does urgently need more of an agenda. At the moment, Tories risk presenting themselves as the party that thinks that the welcome reintroduction of the beaver is the most pressing domestic issue facing Britain. 

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