Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


Truss for leader & PM! A real grassroots move or a spoof?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A new arrival on Twitter – the first follower Ladbrokes Politics


As she leaves for China TMay says she’s not a quitter and will lead party into GE2022

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

At least this could bring things to a head

With all the talk about the number of letters going to Graham Brady demanding a confidence vote in Mrs Mays leadership she has responded by making it very clear that her intention is to see it out until the next general election.

This flies in the face of the broad understanding that existed when she was allowed to carry on after her failure in June last year to retain the Conservative majority. The whole point of calling an early election was to increase her majority in order to strengthen her mandate on Brexit.

The broad view within the parliamentary party has been in that Theresa May would stand down in 2019 following the implementation of Brexit. This has led to the widespread assumption that there would be a leadership contest in the summer of next year.

The way that Theresa May handled that GE2017 campaign making it’s very personal all about herself with very little about the party still rankles amongst Conservatives. We all remember the battle bus which had no mention of the word Conservative on it. There was what in hindsight was her disastrous decision not to participate in a TV debate with Jeremy Corbyn allowing Amber Rudd to stand in for her.

    What she is broadly saying now is that if you want me out then you will have to force me and maybe this will prove to be a gamble, like GE2017 that has got wrong.

The danger for her is that it could encourage more letters to be sent to Mr Brady. As we all know 15% of the parliamentary party, 48 MPs, have to have filed letters with the Chairman of the 1922 committee in order for a vote of confidence to take place. This could take it over the top.

One of the strengths of the TMay approach is it can be argued that the time is never right for a decisive vote of confidence and a leadership contest. There will always be a reason for postpone it.

If she gets through the next few weeks my betting will be that she’ll survive till 2022.

Mike Smithson


Graham Brady – 1922 committee chairman and the only one who knows how safe TMay is

Monday, January 29th, 2018

But should he have let his own views known?

Pictured above is Graham Brady, Chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee and MP for Altrincham & Sale – which is just down the road from Old Trafford where Manchester’s second football team plays.

Under Tory party rules 48 MPs have to write letters to Brady to trigger a confidence vote in the leader. This process was last used in 2003 when IDS got the chop and Michael Howard took over.

What we don’t know is how close to 48 letters the total is. There were stories last week by Harry Cole in the Sun that the total was getting very close and Brady was saying that now was not the time for a leadership contest.

Given the high level of dissatisfaction with TMay that is reported to exist within the parliamentary party there must be a strong chance that the confidence vote would go against her.

The very fact that a confidence vote was being held would be highly damaging for the Prime Minister.

One group of people who we can expect to be amongst those sending letters will be a group of MPs who have become disenchanted following the reshuffle. The sacked and the overlooked are not likely to feel kindly to the woman who made a huge gamble last April going for an early election which resulted in the party losing its majority.

Is it going to happen? That is hard to say but certainly the mood appears to have changed in the last couple of weeks.

It was always going to be difficult for Theresa May, having lost the party its majority, to continue in a post following the June election. Clearly it has been a massive dent to her confidence.

What has kept there until now has been that there is no obvious successor and the party itself is quite split or the sort of Brexit it wants.

Mike Smithson


The fight to succeed TMay – part 127

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Doesn’t look good for the DefSec – said to be TMay’s preferred successor

And BoJo steps up the ante

In the betting Amber Rudd moves to 3rd favourite


Now isn’t the time to push May, whatever the temptation

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

But there’s a good chance Con MPs will do it anyway

Only one of the three traditional British parties currently has a leader – and that one by happenstance. To lead is by definition a dynamic thing. It is to set oneself at the head of something and take it somewhere in such a way that others follow. It is not a quality granted simply by virtue of holding a given office.

On those terms, Vince Cable is not a leader: he and his party are simply invisible. A leader of the Lib Dems would be going and grabbing publicity. Certainly, the losses sustained over the last two general elections left his party make that far harder than it was before 2015 but capable leaders of smaller parties – Caroline Lucas and Nigel Farage spring to mind – have managed it in the past. The Lib Dems’ impressively large membership has been garnered despite their leader, not because of him.

But Cable’s failings pale beside those of the prime minister. It was telling that she devoted her speech at Davos to the subjects of internet security and regulating artificial intelligence: important matters no doubt but not ones to grab the attention of either the national media or her international peers. She was in effect running back to the ground on which she felt comfortable as Home Secretary – a post that she’s never truly psychologically left. Even more importantly, she didn’t propose anything so there was nowhere for her to lead anyone nor for them to follow.

Her failure to become the leader she was elected to be is, inevitably, what’s at the heart of the renewed speculation over her future at the head of the Conservative Party. The newspaper stories this week might have been based on the alleged comments of the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, asking Tory MPs to be careful in submitting any more letters (a comment which by definition should always apply and which might be as likely to encourage some MPs to act as to put them off), but if more letters have been dropping into Graham Brady’s inbox recently, it’s because of the extent to which her standing has been damaged as much by the actions of others as by anything she’s done. But that in itself is only possible because the vacuum at the centre.

Politically, that’s a recipe for instability. Sooner or later, something will happen that will prompt MPs to act – possibly after a minister does so – or for May to quit of her own accord, though that’s much less likely: prime ministers are rarely short of self-confidence. If Tory MPs are thinking straight, it should be later.

There are all sorts of reasons not to call a Vote of No Confidence now. For one thing, while she’s not much of a leader, she’s not a bad head of government. There’s no great innovation and the intentions she spelt out on entering Number Ten will forever be unfulfilled by her, but as far as anyone else’s ambitions go, that failure to establish a direction is no bad thing: they have no need to engage in premature action to stave off an irreversible decision. In terms of the economy and public services, she’s doing a reasonable job of minding the shop. Sure, there are issues in the NHS at the moment and there are other challenges ranging from Universal Credit to Stormont but none that can’t be rectified with application and perhaps more cash.

Except of course for Brexit: that cannot be deferred. (Let’s leave aside unrealistic legal loopholes here – Britain will leave in Spring next year, probably on March 29, because that’s what nearly all Conservative MPs, plus a large enough number from other parties, are committed to). However, that very fact should of itself be a deterrent to action. To take another two months out of the timetable to indulge in a leadership election would not only be grossly irresponsible and look ridiculous to the public and to the EU27, it could only result in one of two possibilities: a new leader with much the same policy, in which case why bother, or one that wants to rip up 18 months’ work and replace it in a third of the time with something that the other EU members will almost certainly find harder to agree to (on the assumption that any change in policy would be to a harder Brexit) – which is probably not deliverable.

Either way, whatever the outcome, those who don’t like it will blame the leadership contest, certainly for it being a distraction and, depending on their view, because of the outcome.

Besides, if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that elections are inherently unpredictable, both in themselves and in what the person or party elected turns out to be like. An attempted coup from the Ultras could end up with the membership being given a choice of Amber Rudd and Jeremy Hunt if, say, Boris knocked out the other Leavers and then imploded in a badly misjudged remark. Is it worth the risk?

And of course, there’s the even bigger risk that the leadership election messes up the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP – not at all impossible given the interrelated issues of Brexit and the N Irish border – and the country is plunged into another general election, taking a further six weeks or more out, riling the public and risking the very real possibility of a Labour win.

We should note, while we’re at it, that there is the risk that the MPs having called a Vote of No Confidence, May then wins. I doubt that she would – the disillusionment seems too deep and the very act of calling a vote would undermine her position further – but the possibility must be faced. In that case, if she won narrowly, it would do nothing to resolve the situation and would probably bring discontent further out into the open; if she won comfortably, with MPs taking the view that now is not the time, then May’s position could be strengthened sufficiently that it becomes hard to challenge her again later in the parliament. On that basis, my own view is that whatever damage a leadership contest would do, calling a vote is of itself the point of no return.

But this is a betting site. The question of what MPs should do (from their own perspective) is a rather different one from what they will do. Muddling through is not an attractive option when there is an alternative, even if that alternative is a leap in the dark.

Will May be forced out this year? Until this last week, I’d have said no based on the power of the logic (though that was also the reason why I didn’t think May would reshuffle this year either). But now? I think there’s a good chance and if it happens, it’ll probably be in response to some incident we cannot yet predict in detail. Everyone has a limit to their patience.

David Herdson


On a day when TMay’s future has been in the news the last nine months on Betfair

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Mike Smithson


If the Sun’s Harry Cole is right there are signs that a move against TMay might be imminent

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

At least this takes the focus off the NHS

As we all, no doubt, know the rules of the Conservative Party state that a leadership vote of confidence amongst party MPs has to take place if 48 of them write privately to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Graham Brady, asking for such action.

There were rumours following the prime minister’s less than successful conference speech in October that such a move might be underway. That fizzled out when the blame was put on the former party chairman under David Cameron, Grant Shapps.

Today’s Sun’s Harry Cole is writing that something might be happening at the moment.

“.. One senior backbencher told The Sun the top Tory was “ashen faced” at the prospect of getting one more letter recently – which he has intimated could spark a bitter leadership election and plunge Brexit talks into chaos.

The party grandee’s terrified reaction suggests the number of letters he has already received may now have reached the mid 40s, as anger with “dull, dull, dull” Theresa May spirals on the Tory benches..”

If such a confidence motion was passed then Brady would have to call an immediate leadership election and under the rules the prime minister could not put herself forward as a candidate. IDS in October 2003 was booted out in such a move.

Clearly Theresa May has been in an extraordinary weak position since the day after the general election which she called and which resulted in the party losing its overall majority. But on the Monday after that Theresa May told backbench MPs that she had got the party into this position and she was going to get it out of it.

The view since then has been that Theresa May would not be allowed to fight the next general election but would be able to stay in place until the Brexit process had been finalised.

Once Brady has received the 48 letters the secret ballot has to take place within 24 hours which reduces the time for the whips to mount a campaign on the PM’s behalf.

Is this going to happen? I don’t know but something appears afoot.

On Betfair, as I write (0300), you can get 2/1 on TMay going this year. You can also get 8/1 that she’ll be out in Q1 2018.

Mike Smithson


The reshuffle has left TMay weaker but has it hastened her departure?

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

There’s still no obvious alternative

The former shadow CON minister and head of ConHome, Paul Goodman, has given his damning verdict on the reshuffle under the heading “The worst-handled reshuffle in recent history – perhaps ever”.

This, of course, follows other PM “set pieces” like her October conference speech and the GE17 campaign that didn’t go according to plan.

He highlights that “for several days, the media was full of stories about why the Prime Minister didn’t rate Justine Greening. If they had been knocked down, the latter might have been willing to stay on.” Undoubtedly TMay has made more enemies and Goodman raises the possibility that Greening and even DGreen might join the Brexit belligerents on the back benches.

So the Conservative’s very tight parliamentary position could get even tighter. If both Green and Greening back, say, a controversial Brexit amendment that reduces the government’s theoretical commons majority by four.

No doubt it adds to the number of CON MPs who are ready at the right moment to write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee asking for a confidence vote.

But Theresa May is still there. She is remarkably resilient and has managed to continue in spite of events that other earlier leaders would have found insurmountable. Losing the Conservative majority in June, her less than successful conference speech in October, and now, of course, this botched attempt to add sparkle to her government.

What saves her is that there is no obvious alternative. The 30% betting favourite following the election defeat last June, Boris Johnson, has now slipped sharply down; David Davis who looked like the best alternative for a long period is now down to just 3% in the betting; and two of the top three that the markets most rate, Rees-Mogg and Ruth Davidson are not even Cabinet ministers. The latter is not even an MP.

Boris is still second favourite but it is very hard to envisage him being able to secure the backing of enough MPs to get himself through to the members’ ballot.

Dominic Raab, who wasn’t given a cabinet position in the reshuffle and remains largely unknown outside the party, is now rated as a 5% chance on Betfair. He’s my long shot bet.

Andrea Leadsom is now down at a 3% chance.

Mrs May, meanwhile, continues to give the impression that she’d like to continue perhaps until tthe next general election. Maybe she will do that in spite of everything.

So I am not betting on her early departure.

Mike Smithson