May day alert over PM future

Is Boris Johnson determined to sweep Theresa May off her perch?

Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 10:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 11:10 am

That is certainly what many Tory MPs - and others - suspect about the mop-haired Foreign Secretary’s 4,000-word Brexit “manifesto”.

This immediately begs the question: How secure is May at the top of the Tory tree? It’s beginning to look as though someone - could it be Boris? - is shaking the branches and that the Prime Minister is wobbling a bit. But is Johnson risking his own political future by issuing what some of his critics regard as a naked personal challenge for the leadership? Johnson fiercely denies this is his motive only a few days before the Prime Minister makes her major Brexit speech in Florence. He insists he is right behind her. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd denounces his action as “back-seat driving”.

Boris’s estimate of the cost of EU membership has now been officially challenged, and he appears to have imported a degree of acrimony into the Cabinet - the last thing the Prime Minister wants.

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It is true that all those whose names have been bandied about as a threat to her leadership are saying, hand on heart, that they have no designs on her job. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? But then politicians always say that, so you have to take their denials with a pinch of salt. Johnson’s epic on leaving the EU and pouring the money thus saved into the NHS has been met with angry demands from some Tories that he should be booted out of the Cabinet for what they regard as disloyalty.

However, Johnson is no political innocent and he must have been aware his dissertation would give rise to accusations of attempted power-grabbing on his part. Equally Jacob Rees-Mogg and others whose names have been bandied about as possible successors to the embattled Prime Minister are also adamant that nothing could be farther from their own thoughts. But on top of all this, there is a body of Tory back-benchers who have been expressing disquiet about how the party is being run in the wake of the Prime Minister’s ill-judged decision to hold a general election.