Over the summer, the Tories ousted Boris Johnson from power over fears their party was falling behind in the polls.
As the October nights approach, the curators have found themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire. There are no signs of a honeymoon for Mr Johnson’s replacement, Liz Truss, far from it.
A hardline free-market budget that prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy over a balanced budget sent markets tumbling and put the party 33 points behind Labor in the polls.
There are already whispers that Ms. Truss, who only took office earlier this month, may not be long in this world.
But what should conservatives do to get rid of it, and is it even possible?
Here we go again
The most conventional way for the Conservative Party to ditch its leader is for MPs to write letters of no confidence to the party’s 1922 ruling committee.
Under Tory rules, if 15% of the parliamentary party – currently 54 MPs – sends a letter, a vote of no confidence from all MPs is triggered.
It happened to Boris Johnson, but he initially survived the vote, which requires a majority of MPs to oust someone as leader.
There are reports that several MPs have already sent letters about Liz Truss to committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.
The funny thing about this mechanism is that the only person who knows how many letters are entered is Sir Graham, because the number is private until the threshold is reached. As such, there’s plenty of room for speculation and no hard evidence.
Sure for now?
But there is another relevant rule. Under existing procedures, no Conservative leader who has survived a leadership challenge cannot be challenged for another year.
Some Tories claimed that this rule applied to new leaders who had just been elected – a reported fact confirmed by Sir Graham.
So, is Truss safe? Not necessarily, even if it is. You may recall that shortly after Boris Johnson survived his no-confidence vote, things went from bad to worse for him and many MPs changed their minds and decided to walk away.
MPs have effectively threatened to change the rules on Johnson to allow another challenge: and the same threat applies to his successor.
To change the rules, the members of the executive of the 1922 committee would have to agree that the situation merited such a course of action. It’s unclear what the executive, who was only recently elected, thinks of the idea now. But if there was enough anger among MPs over the Prime Minister’s performance, it could be.
Are there other ways?
Barring a rule change, Truss could be ejected the same way Johnson was ejected. Johnson was struck by cabinet resignation after cabinet resignation and remained isolated.
Eventually, the allies convinced him that it was time to leave for the good of the party and that he could do nothing productive in power.
Liz Truss has yet to be affected by any Cabinet resignations, so the situation is somewhat different. But if she says she is 33 points behind in the polls, you can expect the informal pressure on her to continue to mount. Perhaps there will come a situation where she chooses to leave of her own free will.
What about the public?
The public has fewer options. We have to wait for a general election, and the timing of that election is controlled by Truss herself and is unlikely to be anytime soon. The longest she can wait is until early 2025, although she has previously said she expects to face the public in 202, the following year.