With the Tories fighting over Brexit, only a lack of leadership is uniting the party

The mood of crisis and panic has many causes.

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Heavy weekend? The Conservative Party certainly enters Monday looking green around the gills and as if they might at any point have to run from the room and... sign a letter of no confidence in Theresa May's leadership of the party.

The mood of crisis and panic has many causes. The “get Philip Hammond” show is back on the air – notionally because he called for a “very modest” divergence from the European Union's rules and the EU-UK status quo after we leave. However, the Times' Sam Coates reckons that the real reason is that the Brexiteers are getting their retaliation in early is to ensure they’re ahead of crunch cabinet discussions about the future relationship, and an impact analysis of a drastic Brexit that is expected to be particularly hard on the no deal crowd.

Also causing trouble: the Brexit ultras have got around to reading the small print around the government's strategy and they are not happy at all. There's a commonality across all their interventions: a reference back to the PM's big Brexit speech at Lancaster House. The not-so-coded call: no backsliding, no compromises, no fudges. Only hard Brexits need apply.

On the centre and left of the party, the centre is increasingly worried about the lack of direction and vision from the government, while the left is angry about Europe and worried about the lack of direction and vision from the leadership.

In fact, the one thing that the Tory party, from Rees-Mogg to Heidi Allen, can unite around is that there is no direction or vision from the leadership. That means two things: it's not impossible, and perhaps even likely, that at some point this year or even this week, Graham Brady will suddenly announce that the 48-MP tipping point had been reached and that Theresa May is about to face a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

But the good news for May, at least, is that while her MPs are united on a new direction, as long as they are divided as to what that new direction is, her chances of winning that confidence vote are higher than they look.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.