Tories jostle for the top job

Theresa May’s cabinet has become a venting room for ministers positioning themselves for a future leadership contest.


The safest plan is to "hold May hostage" at No. 10
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2017 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

Theresa May's cabinet "has become a venting room for ministers... positioning themselves for a future leadership contest", says Tim Shipman in The Sunday Times. Last week saw "the most fractious gathering of May's top team" since she entered No. 10. There were leaked reports of anger at Philip Hammond "and what his colleagues regard as his tin-eared' approach to the election result". Another "serious row" involves open rivalry between David Davis and Boris Johnson.

In short, "the Conservative leadership contest they all claim they don't want is already well under way", says Tom Peck on "The most graceless of blue on blue savagery is very much still yet to come."

Were a stronger prime minister in charge, says Rosa Prince in The Daily Telegraph, "big-mouthed briefers might... be kept in check" by the threat of losing their jobs. However, "pretty much every big beast in cabinet knows they have carte blanche to misbehave" since the "traumatised" prime minister "lacks the stomach for a fight". Nevertheless, May herself seems to be secure since "the risk of triggering a leadership election with an uncertain outcome" at a time when Labour is ahead in the polls means that "holding May hostage at Number Ten" seems "the safest plan".

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"There is growing frustration among senior backbenchers about the jostling at the top of the party," says Isabel Hardman in The Spectator. Other MPs "are also furious about the way their colleagues are destabilising the government further with what they regard as selfish behaviour". Complaints from ordinary MPs could have an impact "as the people who will vote on who should be the leadership candidates to go to the wider Conservative party, they have considerably more power than Theresa May will ever manage to regain".

The sight of the Conservatives tearing themselves apart might be entertaining, but the "increasingly noxious power struggle" over the premiership is having a knock-on effect on the Brexit process, according to the Financial Times. Indeed, "four months after setting in motion the process of divorce, Theresa May's cabinet is still nowhere near agreeing its negotiating position".

The prime minister should use her remaining authority "to strike a more realistic Brexit position in line with the chancellor that has some hope of winning parliament's support". If she can't do this, "her leadership must be in serious doubt". After all, "if it is the country that suffers, voters will lay the blame squarely with the Conservative party".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri