So far, two successive Conservative leaders have gambled their majorities; David Cameron on a Brexit referendum for which he was woefully unprepared, and then Theresa May on the snap elections for which neither the country nor her party was prepared.
Kate Maltby, writer and critic, says: “My Tory party has gambled away its reputation. It needs more than a new leader.”
Thus, there is every likelihood that the Prime Minister may face a coupe attempt by some Tory MPs in the autumn season. She is so weakened now that she can hardly afford to sack any senior cabinet figure for fear of triggering a leadership challenge.
It seems that the Conservatives are now a house of cards. The infighting is no more encrypted; it is all evident. The battling of allies of the stalwarts like Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and David Davis from arguments around the cabinet table, have now moved to the open warfare at Westminster summer garden party.
Efforts are being made by the senior Conservatives to downplay the split and infighting labelling it as a result of the “too much warm prosecco”, which is doubtless an insult to the voters’ intelligence.
Why all this? The answer is very well known. The contest for leadership is afoot, as well as, for the nature of Brexit. In this backdrop, Mrs May, enfeebled politically, shorn off of authority, is incapable of reasserting discipline in the party after her election disaster.
Philip Hammond is being targeted on account of negative briefing for he is against hard Brexit. Moreover, he is adamant on maintaining fiscal discipline. His adversaries label him as a stooge of the establishment who can go the extent of ignoring the Brexit results. Therefore, he is being embarrassed on account of his statements about “public sector workers being overpaid, and that, even women can drive trains”.
Negative briefing against each other has become quite common in the Conservative party which is now a house of cards. A senior Tory has blamed Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, for being involved in briefing against Philip Hammond. This senior Tory says: “They are so obsessed with hard Brexit that they are prepared to run the economy off the cliff; they don’t like the fact Philip is pointing out that we will deservedly lose the next election if we do that.”
Philip Hammond is under attack from within his party. There are some who try to undermine him in an endeavour to safeguard Brexit; others detest him as a potential rival for the keys to No. 10.
Another scene of this long Tory play is focused on Boris Johnson and David Davis. Both of them are inwardly hungry for the top job but outwardly pose as if they are the guardians of Brexit vote. Someone has remarked that the elevation of David Davis to Brexit Secretary was like inviting an untrained terrier into the chicken coop.
But the stories of bad blood between Boris and Davis are in circulation. Sunday Times reported the brawl between the two that took place at the Spectator summer party where they behaved “like a pair of rutting stags”. David provoked Johnson over his “failure” to keep his sister Rachel from defecting to Liberal Democrats. Their allies threatened kicking each other in the balls if they did not stop briefing against each other.
There are others who are less ambitious; they think that their interest will be best served if Theresa May stays in the Downing Street. One of such Tories told the Telegraph: “What’s really going on is that the establishment, the treasury, is trying to …. it up. They want to frustrate Brexit. This is a critical moment. That’s why we have to keep Theresa May. Otherwise, the whole thing will fall apart”.
In the Conservative party, Boris Johnson and David Davis are these days viewed as big snarling beasts who are making most of the noise.
Ambition for leadership is not restricted to them only. There are many more who dream of moving into No. 10 by a stroke of luck or a good chance. These include Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Jeremy Hunt, Justin Greening, Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom.
Then there is a second tier of junior ministers and a third tier of back benchers, who are waiting in the wings until their profiles are improved. When the inevitable leadership contest of the Conservative party start, they too will declare their interests.
In the meanwhile, negative briefing and counter briefing goes on ceaselessly as a part of phony war for the leadership. A campaign to work out their supports in case of any eventuality is also going on side by side. Allies of David Davis are making catalogue of their supporters.
An interesting aspect of this “House of Cards” is that many a Tory MP’s are worried as they are desperate to avoid another election for the fear that Jeremy Corbyn may not win.