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 Once lodged, a request cannot be rescinded, so the number can gradually rise over a period of weeks.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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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.