Senior ministers deny coup against Theresa May
Cabinet reported to be ready to force prime minister to stand down after losing patience with Brexit strategy
Reports over the weekend suggested Theresa May could face a Cabinet coup this week, with senior ministers urging her to stand down after finally losing patience with her Brexit strategy. However, the claims were forcefully denied by Michael Gove, David Lidington and Philip Hammond.
Sky News said speculation the prime minister could be ousted “were at fever pitch”, with The Sunday Times reporting 11 cabinet ministers had told them they want May to move aside and make way for a replacement.
Her de facto deputy David Lidington had been named as her potential caretaker replacement, while the Mail on Sunday said others were ready to throw their weight behind Environment Secretary Michael Gove as the “consensus choice”.
Other potential leadership contenders include the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor Boris Johnson and the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.
Reports of a Cabinet coup came after an emotional meeting between the prime minister and her whips in which “one by one they told that her deal would never get through unless Tory MPs received guarantees about the future leadership of the party” reports Buzzfeed.
“The message was clear from the custodians of her government: She had to go” says the news site. Last night, however, the prime minister’s allies continued to play down speculation over the reported coup.
Theresa May is expected to bring her withdrawal agreement back to the Commons for a third and final time this week, after securing a two week Article 50 extension from the EU.
However, “as May fails to gain the support needed to pass her deal in a third vote, pro-EU back-bench MPs are poised to take control of the parliamentary process from tomorrow [Monday] in an attempt to impose a softer Brexit, through a series of “indicative votes” on different types of outcomes, on Wednesday,” reports the Sunday Telegraph.
Arguing the indicative votes would “not be binding”, the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC a general election would become more likely if MPs vote this week for a Brexit option the government does not want.
This represents a nightmare scenario for the Tory party, which is united by the desire not to be led into another election campaign with May at the helm.
Iain Dale in the Daily Telegraph writes “the best and cleanest scenario would be for Theresa May to declare in the next two days that if MPs vote her deal through, she will immediately announce her resignation and stay on until 22 May, to allow two months for her party to elect a new leader. She could then leave with dignity and with the knowledge that her party is just about intact.”
“Whether we stay or go, however, Theresa May’s time is up” says John Rentoul in The Independent.
“She has to go as the price of leaving or as the penalty for staying. She said this week: “As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June.” If the EU agrees a long extension and she doesn’t keep her word, I think her party will keep it for her” he writes.
Stephen Bush in the New Statesman says “the view in the Cabinet has long been that they can remove the PM whenever they like - but can they really? It's a consistent part of May's politics is that she will ignore any non-binding vote. How likely is that to change? We may be about to find out.”