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Tory Coup Speculation Is Rife: Will Replacing The Prime Minister Solve The Conservative Party's Problems?

10/10/2017 11:19 BST | Updated 10/10/2017 11:22 BST
Phil Noble / Reuters

Boris Johnson. Michael Gove. Amber Rudd. They're three of the Cabinet Ministers speculators have tipped to replace Theresa May should Grant Shapps' leadership plot gather enough pace.

But what triggered such anxiety amongst Tory backbenchers to lead the former Conservative co-chairman to develop a list of unhappy MPs?

Reports suggest the list was to be presented to Number 10, in private, in an effort to apply pressure on Mrs May to stand down and make way for a new leader.

Instead, Government whips exposed Mr Shapps' plan, destroying the plot's momentum.

Plainly put, it's not been the easiest couple of months for the Prime Minister. She gambled on a snap General Election and it backfired spectacularly. She fired her two closest advisers - Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill - who oversaw her stage-managed, presidential-style campaign, and left herself friendless. She lumbered on, with aides attempting to replace the 'strong and stable' fuse in the Maybot, but neither the public nor her party was convinced she was more than a shell of herself.

After Jeremy Corbyn's unexpected success at the polls and the Labour Party's buoyant display at Conference, the Tory faithful gathering in Manchester will have been desperate to show a united front in an effort to close the gulf in the opinion polls.

But a whole array of issues stopped that from happening. The Foreign Secretary's various newspaper interventions on his vision for Britain and Brexit 'red lines' threw a rocket under the conference.

With Tory press officers briefing that the leader's speech would be her most 'personal' yet, it should have been the perfect moment for a reboot to help instil confidence in her leadership and put to rest any rumours that Cabinet Ministers were actively moving against her. Perhaps more importantly, though, it would have been the ideal opportunity to send a strong message to Brussels that the Government is agreed on the direction of travel on Brexit and it wants negotiations to succeed.

May's speech started off quite strong, but the prankster waving a P45 helped knock her off her stride.

Then came the coughing fit. Despite the Chancellor's lozenge and the rapturous applause the crowd gave her in a bid to salvage something from the occasion, it did not get any better.

While the Prime Minister's voice was falling apart, so too was the stage behind her. It was uncomfortable viewing that became uncomfortable reading a day later when the majority of Britain's front pages splashed with similar angles on what a disastrous piece of oratory it really was.

Would replacing the Prime Minister solve all of the Tories woes? From afar, there is no obvious leadership candidate who could provide clarity and certainty during our departure from the EU, and that is a huge issue. The fact that there is nobody waiting in the wings suggests there won't be another coronation, and with opinion polls from YouGov putting Labour four points ahead, the Tories cannot afford two months of a leadership election and certainly not another General Election. The problems lie much deeper than any one individual. The party is failing to think big. It needs to answer the concerns of ordinary people, just as Labour did so successfully during the election campaign.

And why is Labour so quiet whilst the plotters surround Mrs May? Isn't this the time for the party to capitalise on the Tories' weakness? Shouldn't Labour's PR squad be trying to influence the news cycle to give Labour a strong showing in the major broadcast, online and print press?

In truth, they don't have to do anything at all.

The Tory party is tearing itself apart through infighting, and the disunity grows by the day. You only have to look at history to discover what happens when a party is disunited - the public will not vote for you. The Conservative Party is a survivalist party with ruthless ambitions. It would not have secured its reputation as the most successful political party in Britain were it not. Only time will tell if the attempted coup will see off the Prime Minister, but simply replacing her will not make their troubles go away.