6 Oct 2017

Conservative Party infighting: what have we learned?

This afternoon’s reported spat on the Tory MPs’ WhatsApp group tells you so much about the abysmal state of relations in the Party.

There appears to be an attempt to start what looks to some like a bit of a witch-hunt for names on the Grant Shapps list. One MP is accusing Remainers of being behind the Shapps plot. Another MP rang me to insist it was a Brexiteer dominated list. Quite a few MPs say they don’t believe Mr Shapps has got the “around 30” names he claims. One MP on the Whatsapp thread said he thought he might have fewer names than there were police files sent to the CPS after the election campaign he ran.

One senior backbencher admitted that many MPs had walked their options around the block after the shock of Wednesday’s calamitous finale to the Tory Conference. But, the MP said, getting rid of the Prime Minister “wouldn’t solve any of our problems.”  He thought the vast majority of his colleagues were resolved to cheer Theresa May on for now.

But some of those people who will cheer Theresa May when she addresses the Commons reporting back on the Florence Speech and Brexit on Monday, think she should now sack Boris Johnson for disloyalty and that she will not survive unless she asserts her authority. Some of the MPs cheering her will think the absolute opposite and want Theresa May to keep the balance of Brexit ministers at her top table and, if anything, to lean into Boris Johnson’s (most recent) view of what shape Brexit should take.

The Prime Minister made a brief appearance in front a camera today in her constituency.  No 10 sources have dismissed talk of the PM being tearful after the Wednesday speech. One witness who saw her backstage immediately after the speech said she simply shrugged and said: “You can’t legislate for these things.”

The problem is, post the snap election, she can’t legislate for much at all. The Chancellor feels he can’t fund much. And the Cabinet struggles to agree on the end state wanted for the UK after the Brexit transition. So even if Grant Shapps’ attempt on Theresa May is foiled, it won’t be the last of its kind.

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