Tory MPs prepare to oust Cameron if he loses

Discontented MPs prepare to act if Cameron fails to become prime minister.

Here's a revealing snippet from Ben Brogan's Telegraph column this morning, which suggests that David Cameron's days will be numbered if he loses the election.

Brogan writes:

If the Tory leader is not prime minister on or soon after May 7, the parliamentary party will turn on its leader. Already the 92 Group, a club of Thatcherite MPs, is planning a meeting in the week after the election that could demand Mr Osborne's head. A coalition of the excluded, the irreconcilables, and those nursing grievances over the handling of the expenses inquiry is preparing to break its silence. Up to 20 MPs are said to be ready to speak out.

It is with this possibility in mind that Cameron has previously ordered the party's powerful backbench 1922 Committee to change their rules to make it harder to remove a sitting leader. Under the current rules, a leadership contest is triggered when 15 per cent of the party's MPs submit a request for one. Once lodged, a request cannot be rescinded, so the number can gradually rise over a period of weeks.

But Cameron is expected to change this rule by putting an "expiry date" on letters. Rebel MPs would have to write again after a certain period.

Either way, it is hard to imagine the party's backbenchers tolerating a further period in opposition under Cameron. Many are unreconstructed Thatcherites who only accepted the 'modernisation' of their party in the belief that Dave was a winner.

If this assumption turns out to be wrong, we can expect the Tories, as usual, to act with Darwinian ruthlessness in removing their leader.


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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.