Ever since Chequers there has been almost constant speculation about an attempt to remove Theresa May but with nothing actually happening. So it is tempting to ignore it all, to conclude that those agitating against Mrs May are all hat and no cattle. But this weekend, something does appear to have changed. Whether it leads to anything remains to be seen, but the shift in the mood does seem worth relating.
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a former Cabinet Minister who had never told me before that May should go. This time, he was clear not only that she should, but that there was an active effort underway to bring this about.
The thing that I was struck most about was this former Secretary of State’s anger, there was much Anglo-Saxon language and talk of national humiliation. This was someone who believed that things were going so badly that removing the Prime Minister couldn’t make them go any worse.
Then, this morning, someone who has form when it comes to removing Tory leaders got in touch to suggest a way to replace May without having to ballot Tory members in the country, which would allow a leadership contest to be concluded far more quickly. The theory goes that May would be left as party leader but replaced as Prime Minister. Her successor as PM would promise to face the members soon as possible after Britain has formally left the EU on 29th March, 2019.
Now, this plan has its flaws. It would require all the possible candidates to replace May to accept either a coronation or only MPs voting. Would those, such as Boris Johnson and David Davis, who stand their best chance with the members really go along with this? I doubt it. Also, who could Tory MPs agree on as a replacement PM? It is still not obvious who would be acceptable to the three different Brexit factions within the party.
But the fact that ideas like this are doing the rounds is a reminder that Tory panic is growing. Mrs May urgently needs some progress in the negotiations to shore up her position.