Cameron warned to improve or face no-confidence vote
Tory plotters are 'polishing their knives', telling the PM he has until summer 2014 to lift his game
JUST days after a plot to install a backbench Tory MP as Conservative leader was exposed, prime minister David Cameron has been warned he has until the summer of 2014 to improve his party's fortunes or face a vote of no-confidence from rebels.
The Daily Mail says "plotters" within the Tory Party are also trying to "whip up support" for a letter calling on the PM to remove chancellor George Osborne from the Treasury if the UK falls into a triple-dip recession.
As Cameron began the final leg of his African tour today by co-chairing a UN meeting in Liberia, The Guardian reported that the PM has been told to improve poll ratings and ensure the party does well at the local elections if he is to head off a revolt next year. The paper says a "diehard group of party rebels" who would like to replace Cameron now will "significantly grow in numbers over the next 17 months" if Conservative fortunes do not improve.
The previous campaign to collect 120 signed letters in support of Adam Afriyie – the millionaire MP for Windsor who has been dubbed the "Tory Obama" – was widely derided in Tory ranks, the paper says. But there is a "growing belief" among the party faithful that enough MPs are concerned about the Conservatives' poor standing in the polls and the prospect of bloodshed at the local elections in May to "trigger a vote of confidence" next year. A vote would be brought on automatically if 46 MPs – 15 per cent of the parliamentary party – write to the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, The Guardian says.
The Mail says the failure of the Afriyie "plot" has simply encouraged Tory rebels to seek Osborne's head instead. The paper understands the conspirators intend to send a letter to Cameron after the local elections "calling on him to replace the chancellor if his March budget fails to drag the economy from the doldrums".
The idea of a "job swap" between Osborne and foreign secretary William Hague has been "floated privately" by senior Tories, the paper adds.
Any leadership challenge to Cameron would be "utter insanity", argues Robert Colville in the Daily Telegraph. The fact that plotters are "polishing their knives" leads to one obvious conclusion: "The lunatic fringe of the Conservative Party is rather larger than we thought."
The rebels' arguments against Cameron and Osborne ignore "a whole host of counter-arguments", says Colville. "First, this government – despite its reputation – isn't an omnishambles. It's doing some bad things, and many good things, but in general terms is light years away from the depths of the Callaghan, Major or Brown administrations."