‘Cabinet coup’ more Frank Spencer than Frank Underwood – but does hasten PM’s downfall | Politics News
We’ve been here before – Sunday newspaper front pages screaming reports of coups, plots and plans cooked up in the corridors of Westminster.
And yet, Theresa May hangs on.
So is this latest wave of skulduggery any more serious? Like everything in politics right now, it’s more complicated than that.
There can be no doubt that some cabinet ministers want Mrs May out and a caretaker prime minister to replace her.
A near uniform series of Sunday front pages doesn’t happen by accident or invention.
That fact is this is different to the failed coup staged by Brexiteers last autumn.
A minority of cabinet ministers telling a prime minister to go is more serious than a minority of MPs.
But plotting ministers have the same problem as plotting backbenchers – the lack of a workable plan to remove Mrs May.
If anything, it is now more difficult to eject the prime minister because of her 12-month period of immunity from a fresh confidence vote among Conservative MPs, as a result of December’s failed ballot.
Put this to experienced Westminster watchers and the cliched response is: “Yes, but the men in grey suits will come knocking”.
Well, come the moment, come the man. And they don’t get much greyer than the somewhat anonymous Cabinet Office minister David Lidington.
The issue is there’s no suggestion a mass of ministers or MPs want him to go knocking.
As former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said, if the answer is Mr Lidington as caretaker prime minister “then what the hell was the question?”.
Other Brexiteers smell Downing Street spin and an attempt to establish the threat of a Remainer cabal being installed in Number 10 if they don’t eventually fall in behind Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
Whatever the reality, quarrelling over the plot before the coup has even begun is more Frank Spencer than House of Cards protagonist Frank Underwood.
But that doesn’t mean there is no appetite in the party for Mrs May to set out her exit timetable.
In fact, laying out when she plans to leave could be one of the few cards the prime minister has left to try and rescue her flagging EU withdrawal agreement.
Chancellor Philip Hammond told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show that swapping the leader won’t fix the problem.
But for many Tories, Mrs May is now inextricably part of the problem.
So while this plot may prove to be another whip that fails to crack, it does firm up the final destination for Mrs May’s premiership and hastens the time of arrival.