View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
15 July 2018updated 09 Jun 2021 2:16pm

A Tory civil war is now inevitable

Theresa May and her Brexiteers are occupying irreconcilable positions. An explosive showdown is now inevitable.

By Patrick Maguire

Is Theresa May heading for disaster? It’s very difficult to escape that conclusion this evening. Her plan for a soft Brexit continues to lose her friends and alienate people on the Tory benches. 

Today Robert Courts, David Cameron’s successor as MP for Witney, became the sixth member of the government to quit since the cabinet signed off on the Chequers proposal. 

His resignation, as with that of Chris Green last week, is one of those likely to elicit a one-word reply from most observers: “Who?” In the immediate term, May will obviously survive without a parliamentary private secretary to the junior ministers at the Foreign Office, as she has without Boris Johnson and David Davis. 

It nonetheless spells trouble for the prime minister ahead of key votes on the Trade and Customs Bills this week. Last month, it appeared that the greatest risk for the government was rebellion from pro-EU Tories.  Instead, the Brexiteers now pose a clear and present danger. Resignations like Courts’ – not pathological rebels, but conscientious, upwardly mobile members of the government machine – highlight how pervasive the discontent with May’s plan for Brexit is, and how far beyond the usual Eurosceptic suspects it extends. 

Their unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object. The prime minister made clear on Marr and in today’s Mail On Sunday that she is not for turning – warning rebels that it is her Brexit, or no Brexit. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Her problem – and it is getting bigger by the day – is that nothing will convince them to support the Chequers plan. Indeed, Steve Baker, the former European Research Group chair who resigned as a Dexeu minister last week, is now running a “party-within-a-party” whipping operation to corral Eurosceptic colleagues into opposing it (as revealed by the Telegraph). 

I wrote last week that Baker’s resignation, rather than those of Davis or Johnson, had the most potential to destabilise May. So indeed it has. He is back doing what he does best – fomenting backbench rebellion. Baker and his ERG colleagues are clear they will not stop until May blinks, even if that means rebelling en masse on this week’s legislation. They no longer trust the prime minister. “She is a Remainer who has remained a Remainer,” Jacob Rees-Mogg complained today.  

If May does not fold and resile from the Chequers plan – and there is no indication that she will – then the rebels’ mission will shift to changing leader, rather than changing policy. “I’m afraid things are now on the verge of going properly pear-shaped for people’s summer holidays,” a source close to Rees-Mogg warned this afternoon. 

With just one week left before parliament breaks for recess, and more resignations likely to come, an explosive showdown is inevitable. If both sides keep to the irecconcilable positions they currently occupy, it will mean a leadership challenge.

Content from our partners
Future proofing the NHS
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU