Put up or shut up says Chris Moncrieff

[STANDFIRST] The message is now loud and clear to the would-be Tory rebels said to be trying to depose Theresa May - put up or shut up. Chris Moncrieff reports on the possible consequences to the party of any more action from the malcontents

Malcontent – Grant Shapps
Malcontent – Grant Shapps

n The Conservatives kicking a woman when she's down? Never!! Yet what has been happening since the end of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester is beginning to look decidedly like that.

Grant Shapps, who was stripped of his ministerial rank when Theresa May entered Downing Street, claims to be leading a gang of some 30 malcontent Tory MPs who allegedly want the Prime Minister to be replaced.

And they have craftily and unfairly put the word 'disastrous' next to 'speech' in an apparent attempt to suggest her end-of-conference address was well below par. But it seemed a more than adequate speech for the occasion albeit : A rousing call to arms to send delegates home uplifted and in an optimistic mood. And she is to be congratulated on battling through the problems to the end.

The fact the speech was bedevilled by unfortunate mishaps over which the Prime Minister had no control, and has been exploited by her critics as a reason for her to step down.

That if I may say so, amounts almost to political trickery, exploiting her misfortunes as a way of suggesting she is unfit for the job. Shame on them!

And who are these 30 people who want to see her go? Other than Sutton Coldfield's Andrew Mitchell, no one else has nly Shapps, at the time of writing,seems to have yet put their head above the parapet, and we thus have no knowledge of the number of people involved or who any of them are, apart from Shapps.

Plenty of Tories have come out in support of May and have denounced the so-called would-be rebels. Even the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has called for an end to this 'malarkey'.

Some Tories do not seem to have the sense to realise that rocking the boat like this can all too easily lead to it capsizing.

n No wonder Labour supporters are looking so smugly on the trials and tribulations of the Conservative Party – for it used, certainly, to be the other way round, with Labour in turmoil and the Tories in relative calm.

While Theresa May fights off her detractors, those Labour critics of Jeremy Corbyn seem to have melted away. Two abortive attempts have been made to dislodge him, but he has emerged from both with flying colours.

He is now firmly entrenched as Labour’s leader – despite all the gloom of the naysayers just two years ago – and those who thought it would be a walk in the park to chuck him out, have now given up the ghost.

But should Corbyn make it into Downing Street - an event that causes shudders among the Tory high command - would he be strong enough to stave off any challengers for the Premiership? There are fears among Tories that, should Labour win the next election, Corbyn’s shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a much cleverer politician, might swoop in and grab the reins.

It has been done before when Ken Livingstone, in a relatively bloodless and brilliant coup, moved in on the Greater London Council leadership.

The Conservatives regard McDonnell as a far more dangerous figure than Corbyn and, as one Tory told me, the prospect of McDonnell in charge 'drives me to drink – and worse'.

n With the party conference season now over (to everyone's relief), we can look forward to a tumultuous session of Parliament between now and Christmas.

Brexit will be the dominant issue. But the question some Conservatives are already asking in private is whether the chief Brexit man, David Davis, will be able to hold on to his job in the event of an autumn reshuffle. Despite some claims to the contrary, progress has been painfully slow and difficult, as the Brussels Eurocrats fight for every penny they can squeeze out of the UK as the 'price' for leaving.

Davis is a tough cookie, but is he tough enough to face down these grasping and seemingly immoveable men of Brussels? Who could take Davis’ place? I wonder whether thoughts of Boris Johnson have crossed the Prime Minister’s mind. At least he would take no nonsense from these EU grandees.

You never know. Stranger things have happened.

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