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31 July 2018

The Conservative Party is abandoning Theresa May

A new survey of members reveals 45 per cent want the Prime Minister to go now – a statistic that increases the chances of mutiny from MPs in autumn. 

By Patrick Maguire

Theresa May might be on holiday, but her grassroots are offering no respite. ConservativeHome’s latest survey of Tory members, taken in the weeks following the Chequers deal, has recorded a drastic spike in the number of members who want the Prime Minister to quit immediately.

Some 45 per cent of those polled want May to go now – up from 21 per cent last month – while a further 36 per cent want her to quit before 2022. ConHome’s membership surveys are always a reliable barometer of what the party’s grassroots are thinking and for Downing Street, numbers like these are yet more symptoms of a malady for which they have no cure.

Despite a string of ministerial resignations in protest at her white paper, the Prime Minister managed to stagger through to recess without formally abandoning her Brexit plan. That the backlash from the party in the country has been so pronounced, however, is another sign that she will not be able to defy political gravity for much longer.

On Europe, Tory members do not want the compromises May is still intent on delivering. Recent meetings of local party chairs at Downing Street – a vain attempt to sell the Chequers deal – are a case in point. Attendees say the prevailing mood was one of obstinacy. By and large, members believe there should be no more concessions to Brussels, or, failing that, no deal.

These numbers reflect that sentiment. It’s a dangerous one for May: these are the people who will spend the coming weeks bending the ears of their restive MPs. Backlash from the grassroots will doubtless convince some of those wavering to join the mutiny. Even more damaging than that is the fact that it bolsters the Eurosceptic case that Chequers must be killed off as soon as parliament returns in the autumn.

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If not that, it will have to be May’s zombie administration that is put out of its misery. Plotting is already underway. Unable to command a majority for any Brexit in the Commons and having long lost the trust of her MPs and grassroots, the Prime Minister has no escape route. Brexiteers, however, believe theirs is obvious: getting rid of her.