Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted he might have failed to secure the support he needed to oust Theresa May, as the attempted coup was described as having gone a bit “Dad’s Army”.
The leading backbench Brexiteer warned fellow Tory rebels on Tuesday morning they risked missing their one chance.
“I think it is now or the Prime Minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election,” he said on Tuesday morning.
Asked if the assault on May had gone a bit “Dad’s Army”, Rees-Mogg joked he had “always admired Captain Mainwaring”.
Last Thursday Rees-Mogg dramatically announced he was submitting a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister. It had been widely expected threshold of 48 MPs would then quickly be reached.
But the European Research Group (ERG) of eurosceptic MPs now risks ridicule as days later the predicted leadership challenge has failed to materialise.
Dad’s Army depicted a rag-tag and often bugling local unit of the Home Guard during the Second World War.
Speaking in Westminster this morning, Rees-Mogg said any move to topple May could now now emerge until Commons votes on her Brexit deal. “Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace,” he said.
“Do 47 want to come with me? Or not?” Rees-Mogg added. “I may find that they don’t or that they don’t do it today but they do it when we get the meaningful vote. That is a decision for them.”
He told journalists it was “rather silly” to describe what he was trying to do as a “coup” against the PM.
Speaking to ConHome, Rees-Mogg also admitted some Tory rebels wanted to wait until December.
“Some people don’t want a leadership vote now, they would like it when the meaningful vote comes up and think that is the time to put in letters,” he told the Moggcast podcast.
Rees-Mogg was speaking alongside other Brexiteers, including former Brexit Secretary David Davis, at an event designed to promote their alternative plan for leaving the EU.
Their report named “Fact – NOT Friction” was billed as exposing “17 myths” and “scare stories” about leaving the customs union.
Just 26 MPs have publicly declared that they have written no confidence letters to the Tory backbench 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.
Only Brady knows how many letters have been submitted in total – and he has yet to declare that the 48 figure has been reached.
Yesterday morning Tory MP Simon Clarke ramped up expectations that May was about to be challenged when he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme it was “the day we stand at the bar of history”.
But after the day had passed without the expected announcement, Clarke told BBC Newsnight: “I think it is fair to say that the process continues. I don’t take back those words, I hoped today would be the day. There will be other flashpoints.”
There were also reports that the so-called “pizza club” group of Cabinet Brexiteers was backing away from a plan to go to the PM to demand she re-opens negotiations with Brussels on a key element of the agreement.
It was not all good news for Downing Street yesterday, however. May’s DUP allies delivered a warning shot across the bows after accusing the Prime Minister of breaking fundamental promises on Brexit.
The party joined with Labour to cut the government’s majority to just five in a late night Commons vote on the Budget.
The Northern Ireland party also abstained on a series of other amendments to the Finance Bill on Monday night in a move intended to send a “political message” to May.
Their actions appeared to call into question the future of the “confidence and supply” arrangement by which the DUP props up May’s minority Conservative government.
Under the terms of the deal, agreed after May lost her Commons majority in last year’s general election, the DUP is supposed to back the government on Budget matters and on confidence votes.
The chances of the PM winning the Commons vote on her Brexit deal also remain slim, as it is not just pro-Brexit Tories who have pledged to vote against it.
Damian Collins, the senior pro-Remain backbencher, this morning announced he would not support it and rejected May’s claim it was the “best we can do”.