When All Else Fails, Change the Rules
Under Tory party rules, a leadership challenge can only happen once every 365 days. Prime Minister Theresa May survived a leadership challenge last December.
However, the party is considering a rules change to allow more frequent challenges.
A leadership challenge is similar to a vote of no confidence except only members of the Tory party vote. Then the Tory party gets to pick a new leader. Labour has no say in the process.
On Tuesday the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs will meet to discuss whether the rules should be changed to allow a new bid to remove the Prime Minister. Alan Mabbutt, a senior Conservative Party official, has confirmed that the rules surrounding leadership challenges are not determined by the party's constitution but by backbench MPs themselves.
A new analysis by Comres suggests that the Tories stand to lose 41 seats at the next election with 29 Leave MPs set to be ousted as voters switch to Labour, the Liberal Democrats and SNP.
Under one plan being considered by MPs, a second confidence vote will be allowed to take place six months after the first. It means the vote could be held shortly after the European elections take place on May 23. To avoid "vexatious" challenges to the Tory leadership in future, the plans to hold a contest every six months will require the support of 94 Tory MPs - equivalent to a 30 percent rather than the current 48.
One senior member of the 1922 committee told The Telegraph that positions have hardened during Easter recess. "MPs have been knocking on the doors for the local elections and finding it really hard in terms of the response from their constituents," the MP said. "There's a desire to change the rules."
Note the misleading Telegraph headline. Leadership challenges and votes of no confidence are not the same thing.
In a vote of no confidence, the entire parliament gets to vote and that process would tend to lead to new elections.
Rule Change Too Late?
I proposed this months ago. Had a rules change taken place right before May's last extension request, she would have been gone, and a hard Brexit would have happened.
Meanwhile, there is time, at least until May is outed, for May and Labour leader come to an agreement.
Of course a new Prime Minister can seek to undo the deal.
Both Corbyn and May have red lines and the talks have not been going well. But under threat of someone like hard Brexiteer Boris Johnson becoming the new prime minister, perhaps that can to to a sloppy kiss arrangement. Even still, any deal would have to pass a majority in Parliament.
What Can Go Wrong?
Let's assume there is a successful leadership challenge and Johnson is the new Prime Minister.
Corbyn would likely file a motion of no confidence. It is unclear what would happen. Enough Tories might vote against their own party to sink Johnson. Indeed I would expect that to happen.
However, about a third of the Labour party wants Brexit. It is conceivable enough Labour would support Johnson but only long enough to see that Brexit happens. Then once a hard Brexit too place, they might opt to force Johnson out.
Even if Johnson was immediately outed, would the EU be willing to sit through all of this waiting for new elections?
They have an extension until October 31. At a minimum, that would be honored.
Groundhog Day With New PM
If Corbyn won the election, he would opt for a disastrous customs union, worse than not remaining in.
But then we would be back in the same Groundhog Day scenario. Much of Labour does not support a customs union and the Tories would not either.
Whether or not Corbyn could get a deal passed will depend on the results of the elections. No one should have any faith in the current polls.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock