Brexiteer plot flops: Anatomy of a failed coup

Brexiteer plot flops: Anatomy of a failed coup
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Brexiteers are trying to put on a brave face over the lack of 48 letters needed to trigger a confidence vote in the Prime Minister. Having begun the week certain that they would trigger a vote, they now claim they are giving May time to reconsider and they may move in December. So, what's the truth - a kind gesture or a failed plot?

In order to let readers decide for themselves what went wrong, Mr S has gathered a timeline of events:

Thursday, 15th November

Theresa May's deal is approved by Cabinet – minus a resignation or two. Henry Smith MP posts a photo of his no confidence letter on top of the withdrawal agreement (Mr Steerpike assumes this is a Brexiteer’s equivalent of a seductive selfie):

Jacob Rees-Mogg stages a press conference on the steps of Downing Street to announce he has sent his letter in. Steve Baker – the ringleader – confirms that he sent his back in October.

ERG member MP Anne Marie Morris declares that there is ‘no question’ that a confidence vote will be triggered this week.

Friday, 16th November

Steve Baker appears on Politics Live where he says that he counts the number of no confidence letters with 1922 committee chairman Grahan Brady at 'pretty close' the 48 required if not already there.

But is he beginning to doubt himself? 'They will tell you they have put in letters in when they haven't, they will take them out and not tell you they have them put them out , they will say they have submitted them when they haven't, and so forth,' he sighs of his colleagues.

Monday, 19th November

Tick-tock, it's already the following week and that vote has not materialised. Fear not, however. Simon Clarke – who filed then withdrew then refiled his no confidence letter – takes to the airwaves. The Conservative MP tells the Today programme: 'this is the day that we stand at the bar of history'.

Brexiteers Owen Paterson and Iain Duncan Smith are seen entering Number 10. ERG members brief the lobby that they should get outside No.10 quick – they will NOT want to miss this.

When the two MPs do eventually leave they refuse to say so much as a word to assembled hacks and news soon leaks of a constructive engagement with May over their calls for a change in the deal.

The bar at history has not been met.

Tuesday, 20th November

The deadline keeps shifting and slowly the lonely Tory plotters are running out of energy.

After some scrapping on the ERG WhatsApp thread, Jacob Rees-Mogg decides it's time to tone down the rhetoric. ‘Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace,’ Rees-Mogg says at today’s ERG press conference. ‘We will see what letters come in due time. Do 47 want to come with me or not? I may find that they don’t or they don’t do it today but when we get the meaningful vote. That’s a decision for them.’

The backtracking is contagious. Appearing on politics Live, Nadine Dorries declares: ‘I personally do not want to be seen to be responsible for ousting our second female Prime Minister’ – despite having filed her own letter ‘some weeks ago’.

Will this group of would-be plotters fare any better come December?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to