Ministers: May’s plan for three-year spending review is a fantasy

From The Guardian: Theresa May’s waning authority means the idea of concluding a three-year spending review next year is a fantasy and is only likely to be achieved if she were replaced as leader, cabinet ministers have said.

The government has promised a full spending review in 2019 as part of a pledge to end austerity in the coming years, but senior figures say May will struggle to get the plan signed off.

The review has become the subject of speculation in Whitehall given the prime minister’s pledge to step down before the next election and the unpredictable state of the Brexit negotiations.

“The idea that the cabinet is going to accept a three-year spending review is fantasy,” one government source said. “Most of them won’t even do a three-minute broadcast clip at the moment. Departments are starting to get their houses in order for a one-year sticking plaster settlement.”

Others are opposed to the idea of a one-year plan. They describe it as “kicking the can”, and believe May should instead consider quitting before the spending review to let a new leader set the direction of the party.

“She cannot be allowed to set those terms herself,” one cabinet minister said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Brexit in chaos as Tory MPs trigger vote of no confidence in Theresa May

From The Guardian: Conservative MPs have triggered a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, plunging the Brexit process into chaos as Tory colleagues indicated they no longer had faith in the prime minister to deliver the deal.

Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, has received at least 48 letters from Conservative MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in May. Under party rules, a contest is triggered if 15% of Conservative MPs write to the chair of the committee of Tory backbenchers.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Jacob Rees-Mogg sends letter of no confidence in May

From The Guardian: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the outspoken chair of the backbench European Research Group of Brexiters, has called for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, on the most perilous day of her premiership.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, who rejected May’s Brexit deal just moments after it was published on Wednesday night, announced that he was sending a letter to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of no confidence.

His decision came while May was continuing to face a barrage of questions from MPs about her Brexit deal – and while Downing Street was still reeling from a string of resignations, most damagingly that of the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab.

In his letter, which was released to the media, Rees-Mogg suggested the prime minister had broken her word.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“It’s a shitshow”: leading Tory backbench MP on May’s government

From The Guardian: A leading Conservative backbencher has laid bare the extent of Tory frustrations with Theresa May by openly admitting he would not vote for the party if he wasn’t an MP, and had no interest in becoming a minister in a government he called “a shitshow”.

Johnny Mercer, who has represented Plymouth Moor View since 2015, said in an interview that in the current political situation there was “absolutely no chance” he would try to enter parliament, and intimated that May was an unimaginative “technocrat”.

Speaking to the House magazine – which last month ran an interview with Karen Bradley in which the new Northern Ireland secretary admitted knowing almost nothing about the region’s politics before she took the job – Mercer expressed deep disillusionment with modern Conservatism.

The former soldier was asked how the pre-politics version of himself would vote now. Mercer, who left the army in 2012, replied: “I wouldn’t go and vote. Just being honest, I wouldn’t vote. Of course I wouldn’t, no.”

Asked whether he would join the Conservatives, Mercer said: “If the situation was like it is now, I can safely say there would be absolutely no chance that I would try and be a member of parliament.”

Mercer, one of the more publicly prominent – and self-confident – members of the newer intake of Tory MPs, also indicated he had turned down a role in government and could never serve under May.

[Read article on Guardian website…]

Brexit: 80 Tory MPs will reject Chequers plan says former minister

From The Guardian: The Conservatives face a “catastrophic split” if Theresa May relies on Labour votes to push her Chequers plan through parliament, one of the prime minister’s most persistent critics has warned, as the conflict within the party over Brexit intensified.

The former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker used an interview to mark 200 days before departure to argue May must take a different approach.

Baker said at least 80 Conservative MPs would be willing to vote against the plan, which Eurosceptics argue ties the UK too closely to the EU on regulation and alignment, hampering future bilateral trade deals.

Baker told the Press Association: “We are reaching the point now where it is extremely difficult to see how we can rescue the Conservative party from a catastrophic split if the Chequers proposals are carried forward.

“It is absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to me to acknowledge that, but I look at the mood of colleagues and the mood of the Conservative party in the country and I am gravely concerned for the future of our party.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Boris Johnson resigns as Foreign Secretary

From The Guardian: Boris Johnson has resigned as foreign secretary, becoming the third minister in 24 hours to walk out of the government rather than back Theresa May’s plans for a soft Brexit.

The prime minister hammered out a compromise with her deeply divided cabinet in an all-day meeting at Chequers on Friday, but after consulting friends and allies since, Johnson decided he could not promote the deal.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “This afternoon, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The prime minister thanks Boris for his work.”

After the Chequers summit, it emerged that Johnson had referred to attempts to sell the prime minister’s Brexit plan as ‘polishing a turd’.

His resignation follows that of the Brexit secretary, David Davis, and his No 2 at the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Cabinet anarchy over Brexit

From The Guardian: A middle-ranking Tory minister stopped on his way to a meeting in the House of Commons and offered the following observations about the government in which he serves. “There is no discipline at all. Everyone thinks they can say just what they want. It is not good for anyone or good for the country.” Crucial decisions on Brexit had to be made within days, and time was running out, he said. But within the cabinet, disagreements were widening as the moment of truth approached. Ministers were briefing against one another in public, giving an impression that the ship of state was heading for the rocks just when the national interest required those steering it to pull together.

“She has to lead,” the minister added. “The can has been kicked into the corner on Brexit. It can’t be kicked any farther.” He then headed off, turning back for a second, to sum it all up as “midsummer madness”.

Normally ministers and senior MPs will show some caution when having private conversations with journalists at Westminster. They will at least make efforts not to be overheard. But these days they brief without fear on every corner, in every cloister. Soon after the minister departed, a former cabinet minister who has worked for the Conservative party for several decades strolled by and was happy to talk. The atmosphere was dreadful, he said, and Theresa May’s position was becoming more perilous by the day.

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Tory MPs considering coup against May as frustration builds

From The Guardian: Conservative MPs are considering another attempt at ousting Theresa May if the local elections go badly, as disillusionment with her leadership bubbles up among backbenchers once again.

A string of MPs have told the Guardian that criticism from Nick Boles, a former minister, of her “timidity and lack of ambition” has struck a chord within the parliamentary party, especially among those who believe she is falling short on domestic issues.

May has already survived nascent coups against her leadership after her disastrous election result and again following a series of gaffes at the party conference.

At the time it appeared there was little appetite to get rid of the prime minister before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, but frustration with her lacklustre performance, botched reshuffle and shifting Brexit strategy has caused talk of deposing her to resurface.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tories now seen as more divided than Labour

From YouGov: After senior ministers engaged in a furious briefing war against one another in the wake of the general election result, Theresa May was forced this week to demand Tory MPs stop backbiting or risk Jeremy Corbyn coming to power.

New YouGov data shows this state of affairs has not gone unnoticed by the general public. In late May, the public was more likely to see the Conservative party as united than divided (42% vs 29%). However, now just 8% see the party as united while almost three quarters (74%) think it is divided.

[Read full article on YouGov website…]