Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: Is time finally up for Theresa May?

What the papers say: Is time finally up for Theresa May?
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Is time up for Theresa May? A report in today’s Sun indicates that it could well be, with the paper suggesting that the chair of the party’s 1922 committee, Graham Brady, has told Tory MPs not to issue any more demands for a leadership challenge. Why does this matter? Because it suggests the threshold for a no confidence vote – 48 letters, or 15 per cent of the party’s MPs – could be approaching.

Tory MPs would be ‘crazy’ to call time on May’s leadership, argues the Sun, which urges them to ‘resist’ making a move against the Prime Minister. It goes without saying that things are hardly going ‘swimmingly’ under May, but for as long as there is no ‘obvious successor’, this is not the time to oust the Prime Minister. The party ‘needs more time’ to formulate a succession plan and pick a candidate who could replace May. For the time being though, this choice is not obvious enough and ‘replacing Mrs May now would cause chaos as Brexit trade talks begin and raise the appalling prospect of another General Election’, the paper argues. What’s worse, is that a no confidence vote could ultimately catapult Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street – a move which would mean handing ‘power to a Marxist devoted to mass renationalisation and a tax war on business and investment just as we leave the EU’. ‘If that doesn’t sober Tories up’, the paper concludes, ‘nothing will’.

A more pressing matter for the Prime Minister, at least for today, is her trip to Davos, where she is due to take to the stage in front of world leaders this afternoon. What should she say? May appears to be planning to focus much of her speech on the ethics of artificial intelligence, a worthy subject, but she shouldn’t stop there, urges the Daily Telegraph. Instead, she should also ‘consider expanding her speech to weigh in on behalf of free trade’. When Brexit takes place,it is vital that the UK can ‘exploit the new trading opportunities’ which arise. But this chances will not exist if a trade war is taking place, says the Telegraph – and there is a chance that Trump’s policies risk triggering just such a crisis. This makes it vital that ‘May should trumpet the benefits of free trade, which generates growth, reduces poverty and ultimately makes everyone better off’. If May seizes her chance to do this, she might just persuade Trump of the value of free trade and make him realise that the raising of tariffs won’t help any one – not least Britain at such a crucial juncture.

Unsurprisingly, the Presidents Club dinner also takes centre stage in a number of the newspaper editorials this morning. The Guardian says that ‘everything’ about the men-only dinner ‘stank’. The paper goes on to say that this was a ‘slime ball night out’, but while it says there are ‘questions to answer that are specific to this event’ – such as why Tory minister Nadhim Zadhawi attended, the questions don’t only concern those who went to the dinner. ‘This is not only about a small group of rich and privileged men behaving badly’, says the Guardian, but representative of the ‘overt misogyny that women experience everywhere’. It is clear, says the paper, that ‘some men and women’ continue to ‘go along with behaviour that they know is wrong’. ‘That has to change’, concludes the Guardian.

The sordid dinner shows that ‘a culture of sleaze survives in the City of London and beyond among powerful people who should know better’, says the Times. The paper says it seems that some ‘men do not seem to have understood that no good cause justifies sexually aggressive or intimidating behaviour’. Some have worried that in the wake of #MeToo, the backlash has gone too far and that a ‘new puritanism’ has taken hold. This would be a ‘sad’ consequence, says the Times. But those who read the FT’s expose of the Presidents Club dinner can be ‘under no illusion’ this fear does not apply in this instance, argues the Times.