NEXT week, Theresa May will sit down with Graham Brady – the Tories’ most powerful backbench MP.
He will ask her for more clarity on her departure plans. The answer Mrs May gives will go a long way to determining her future.
Brighty – The Sun Theresa May really needs to hurry her departure, writes James Forsyth
Getty Images – Getty Theresa May is running out of time to deliver a Brexit deal
The executive of the 1922 Committee, essentially the board of the Conservative parliamentary party, this week rejected a change to its rules which would allow another vote of confidence in Mrs May’s leadership.
But this decision was taken narrowly, nine to seven with two abstentions, and the executive did decide to ask the Prime Minister for more detail on when she will go.
If Mrs May simply carries on saying she will leave if the withdrawal agreement passes, that will not be enough.
A response like this would almost certainly lead to the “men in grey suits” considering the issue again after the European Elections.
By then, it will be clear whether the withdrawal agreement can be rescued or not.
If it is clear it can’t, I would expect the ’22 to think again on a rule change unless Mrs May sets out a plan for her departure which would allow a new leader to be in place by party conference and before the crucial European Council meeting in October.
As one of those who voted against a rule change puts it: “You won’t keep this at bay for ever. But she has a few more weeks to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
Even Cabinet ministers who don’t want to see a leadership contest before Britain is legally out of the EU, for fear it would favour those who are prepared to leave without a deal, accept that things, “can’t go on like this”.
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WILL HAVE NO LEGACY
One Secretary of State says: “It is like a pressure cooker, it has to explode in some direction at some point.”
But Mrs May doesn’t want to go anywhere. She knows that if she leaves before the withdrawal agreement is through, she will have no legacy.
She will just be the Prime Minister who lost the Tories their majority and failed to deliver Brexit.
For this reason, she is not going to name a date for her departure any time soon.
It is, however, hard to see how she could do another autumn party conference as leader. With grassroots opinion turning rapidly against her, that would be to court disaster.
But one minister predicts that, “the longer she stays, the harder it will be for her successor”.
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BRITISH POLITICS IS STUCK
Their fear is that MPs are becoming more entrenched in their Brexit positions, not less, and Mrs May is not helping with that.
Their other great worry is that, as time passes, more and more Tory voters defect to the Brexit Party — and the longer this goes on, the harder it will be to win them back.
British politics is stuck right now. This drift can’t go on until October.
Mrs May will either have to find a way to break the logjam or move over and see if anyone else can do better.
Sitting it outMrs May is going to try to avoid embarrassment by not attending the informal EU Council on May 9, which is designed to parcel out the big jobs in the next European Commission.Any attempt by Mrs May to go would have led to objections from Macron and Co, because the terms of the extension allow the EU27 to meet without Britain when they choose to.
Tories Brexit-blocker Labour ploy
THE Government plans to bring the withdrawal agreement bill to the House of Commons after the local elections.
I understand the plan is to bring the bill, which would take the UK out of the EU, to the House before the European Parliament elections and dare Labour to vote it down.
EPA The Government is exasperated at their Brexit failure
If they do, the Tories will try to paint them as Brexit blockers.
Some ministers had wanted the bill to be introduced next week.
But that was decided against because, as one Cabinet minister puts it, you, “don’t want to get the blame for mucking up the locals”; the local elections are on Thursday and Tory candidates desperately want the Government’s handling of Brexit out of the news between now and then.
One Government member heavily involved in these discussions admits another reason for not bringing it forward quicker is that, “the fundamental truth is that this doesn’t have enough support”.
Indeed, this is why the Government keeps shying away from bringing in the bill.
As this minister says: “Every time they do this, they go to the top of the hill and realise it is too difficult.”
CommentJEREMY CLARKSON Here’s the first rule of attempting Bank Holiday DIY: Don’t Injure Yourself CommentTHE SUN SAYS Public don’t care who in Westminster leaked Government’s Huawei 5G decision CommentLORRAINE KELLY Time to celebrate our fabulous older women like Madonna and Sherrie Hewson CommentTHE SUN SAYS Andrew Adonis is the definitive example of the chancers rotting UK politics CommentJAMES GLANCY Leave voters feel insulted & ignored — my Brexit Party will act for the people
It is hard to see the withdrawal bill passing a second reading. But if the Government doesn’t bring it forward, it will be all too obvious that it is out of ideas and doesn’t know what to do.
But a defeat would be embarrassing for the Government.
It is 33 YEARS since a government lost a second-reading vote.
Stalled Javid has Scot to speak up
Alamy Live News Sajid Javid’s leadership bid is flagging
THE Tory beauty parade moves north next week.
On Friday, the Scottish Tory conference starts in Aberdeen.
This will be the last gathering of the Scottish Tories before a leadership contest, and with Scots being twice as likely as English voters to be Tory members, it is an important occasion for those hoping to succeed Theresa May. Two of the likely contenders are speaking, Sajid Javid and Michael Gove.
Javid urgently needs something to kickstart his campaign, which is stalled at the moment; other campaigns claim his support in Parliament is continuing to fall.
Gove will be the hometown boy, he grew up in Aberdeen.
I understand a growing group of MPs who want him to run for the leadership met again on Wednesday night.
His speech will be scrutinised for signs of his intentions and, if he does go for it, what kind of campaign he intends to run.
UK needs five eyes
PA:Press Association Britain is in danger of forgetting priorities over the Huawei deal
THE row over who leaked details of the discussion over whether or not to allow China’s Huawei a role in developing the UK’s 5G network risks obscuring the bigger picture.
The UK’s most important intelligence and security relationship is the Five Eyes alliance – made up of the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The UK’s priority should be to do nothing that limits or endangers the effective working of this alliance.
This is why the direction of travel on Huawei is so troubling.
The US is clearly worried about Huawei, and whether any Chinese company can be genuinely independent of the state in the way Western firms are.
The Australians banned Huawei from all of their 5G network on the basis that this tech doesn’t allow you to safely distinguish between the security sensitive part of the network and the rest, which is what the UK thinks it can do.
The UK shouldn’t break with its most important security allies on the Huawei question.
Change UK is strugglingIN the new parties battle, Change UK are being outperformed by the Brexit Party.
Change UK – formerly The Independent Group – haven’t got a logo, have multiple names and have had to drop several candidates because of embarrassing things they have said on social media.
Change UK’s failings are good news for Jeremy Corbyn.
It makes it less likely they will take a chunk out of Labour’s pro-Remain, pro second referendum vote.
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James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator