It is one thing for an underemployed and talented backbencher to ponder an assault on the leadership in thirteen years time when he thinks Mr Cameron might retire (“He should be leader for 20 years” says Mr Afriyie). Mr Afriyie has confirmed that” he loves Mr Cameron” and was only thinking of running much later when there is a vacancy. The Afriyie plot has been much exaggerated, and misinterpreted. He was not running around asking people like me to sign letters to get rid of the Leader. He has told me personally he is a Cameron fan.
It is altogether another thing to read that the supporters of a leading and well respected Cabinet Minister, the Home Secretary, are getting ready for a Leadership camapign as if there might be one along any day soon.(Daily Mail Saturday)
I assume Mrs May plays no part of this speculation. I recommend she calls in those keen MP supporters of hers who have started to brief the press in her favour and tell them they are no friends of hers or the government’s. She has a wise friend or two in Downing Street who would tell her just how quickly things like this can get out of control if you allow senior MPs or whoever to brief like this. This is not the right time for such moves. Mr Cameron needs the full support of his Cabinet to do more to improve the economy, and to fight the local elections in May for the party he leads. Dissension now before important elections is a particularly bad idea. He and the Chancellor need to be given every encouragement to take the measures needed to see a resumption of decent growth.
There were mutterings at the end of last year and before Mr Cameron made his big Europe speech in January. A few colleagues asked me what they should do – should they write a letter demanding a vote on Mr Cameron’s tenure? I explained I was not going to do that. I thought Mr Cameron would change the party’s policy on the EU in a way we wanted, and he should be given every chance to do so. I recommended that they waited to see Mr Cameron’s EU speech. It was clear the party needed a new policy on the EU it could believe in. It regarded a referendum, and the hope of a new relationship under a Conservative government, as essential first steps.
Many in the party liked the new policy on the EU. So much so, that the only criticism is can we get on with it more quickly? I read that MP Mr Baron next week will launch a Bill to try to speed up the legislation on the referendum. I would urge my colleagues to get behind the Leader, and give him every support in the forthcoming local elections. Attacking the Leader now is not the way to bring about the improvements people want. It will give encouragement to the federalist parties, Labour and the Lib Dems. Far from making a referendum more likely, it will encourage the Federalist parties to think they can get away without offering one. It will divert attention from the essential task of mending the economy and reforming the public services so we can afford them.