Theresa May is heading into what looks like the toughest week of her career so far, with her cabinet crumbling and a coup closing in around Downing Street.
Dozens of Tories are lining up to agree to a vote of no confidence, according to reports over the weekend, while even May’s allies are piling on pressure from behind the scenes. As many as 40 are believed to be backing calls for May to get the boot.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have been turning up the heat by pushing the prime minister over Brexit. A leaked letter, reported to have been sent to May after the October conference, showed the pair have been working together to lean on the PM.
“Your approach is governed by sensible pragmatism,” it said, according to The Mail on Sunday.
“That does not in any way dilute our ambition to be a fully independent self-governing country by the time of the next election. If we are to counter those who wish to frustrate that end, there are ways of underlining your resolve.
“We are profoundly worried that in some parts of government the current preparations are not proceeding with anything like sufficient energy. We all want you to push your agenda forward with confidence and have your government articulate the following.”
The European Union has given a two-week deadline for Britain to make offers on three crucial areas of the divorce, before EU leaders discuss whether to move on to the next stage of talks. If no agreement is reached, talks will resume in March, giving the UK just one year to make a deal.
But Downing Street appears to be in disarray after the Westminster sex scandal saw leading MPs named in a “dirty dossier” of men and women accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
Sir Michael Fallon resigned over the accusations, May’s deputy Damien Green is being investigated, and other top politicians were implicated.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary, resigned after she was caught holding secret meetings with Israeli leaders, and then apparently attempting to mislead the government and the press over the matter.
MPs have begun to criticize the leader.
“It smells of decline, and the people won’t have it” said John Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View.
“The past ten days have been depressing but not surprising,” he told The Times.
“When I see my colleagues going on television or radio trying to defend Boris or Priti, I have to switch the thing off. People want moral leadership, not that.”
While Downing Street appears directionless, the alliance between BoJo and Gove is beginning to look attractive. Gove has a lot of support within the party and appears to have his “vision” for Brexit blueprinted – much like Boris who had his published in The Telegraph.