Today’s joint statement by the 1922 Committee and the PM may seem opaque but it means something very simple and unambiguous: the Tories will have a new leader – and we will have a new prime minister – by August.
That is what a majority of Tory MPs want. But for reasons of decorum, they have not spelled out the exact timetable ahead of the European Union parliamentary elections, which take place on Thursday, or before the fourth and final attempt to have the PM’s Brexit deal ratified, in the week beginning June 3rd.
Theresa May is being allowed the flimsiest fig leaf of control over her destiny. But sources tell me that a majority of the 1922 executive committee want the new leadership contest done and dusted by the time the Commons rises for the summer at the end of July, to give a new leader the opportunity to shape a Brexit path with a few months to spare before the new deadline of 31 October.
The point is that May no longer holds the lease on 10 Downing Street because she has lost the confidence of too many of her colleagues. That lease has been seized by Tory MPs and what happened today is that they gave a signal to the most ambitious among them, those who want to succeed her, to start bidding for it.
And – as you would expect – her nemesis and the favourite to succeed her, Boris Johnson, has already stuck up his hand and put in his opening offer.
There is now nothing that can or will be said on the Tory side of the house that can be understood separate from a contest to seize the great prize in British politics.