By Tim Montgomerie
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Nadine Dorries has stirred it up again. In an article for the Mail on Sunday and in the interview posted above with Five Live she has predicted that the Chairman of the 1922 Committee will have received enough letters from MPs by Christmas to have triggered a vote of no confidence in David Cameron:
"According to the rules of the backbench 1922 Committee, in order for David Cameron’s position as leader to be challenged, the chairman of the committee needs to receive 46 signatures from Conservative MPs to signal a vote of no confidence. I would guess that those signatures are already coming in and will reach 46 by Christmas."
She attacks the Prime Minister on a number of fronts:
His priorities: While Britons scream out for strong policies on law and order, a stable NHS and an in-out referendum on Europe to cut us free from basket-case Southern European economies, Cameron makes gay marriage and Lords reform his priorities.
His lack of judgment: "Many of us cringed at the images from the U.S. when the perpetually grinning Cameron visited Barack Obama; a week before the Budget, Osborne was flying around on Air Force One, eating popcorn. The impression was that they were two spoilt schoolboys, enjoying themselves enormously at a time when many British families cannot afford a family holiday."
His manners: "Last week… he told the veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, a combative figure in the House of Commons for 40 years, to ‘collect his pension’. The previous week he told the Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, to ‘get a sense of humour’, while his notorious ‘Calm down, dear’ comment to Angela Eagle, and his put-down to me in the Commons when he described me as ‘frustrated’, have added to the impression of gross discourtesy. These are the actions of a petulant schoolboy, one who gives public schools a bad name."
His liberalism: "It has become clear to me that Cameron wants to steer the Conservative party to the Left, to remain in coalition with the pro-European, pro-wind farm, pro-green taxes, pro-giving prisoners the vote, pro-immigration Lib Dems, who command just nine per cent of seats in the Commons. He will avoid at all costs working with MPs on the Right of the party, whose views chime with the popular policies of UKIP."
Those four letters at the end of the quote are the key – UKIP. Nadine is very worried that we might be on the verge of a historic split in the centre right vote. She fears that large numbers of Conservative voters and members will continue to quit the Conservative Party and join Nigel Farage's allsorts army. The defections won't be enough for UKIP to start winning parliamentary seats but there'll be enough of them to make it even harder for the Conservative Party to win that increasingly elusive majority. In her ConHome column today she sets out the kind of Conservative agenda that might re-unite the Right.
One un-named minister told me last night that the "chances of Nadine Dorries defecting to UKIP are 100 times greater than DC being ousted". Unless something dramatic happens at Leveson I certainly don't see any immediate threat to the Prime Minister. While the persistent rebels inside the Conservative Party probably would want a different leader there is no obvious alternative. The vast majority of Conservative MPs still hope that David Cameron will realise that the party is in electoral trouble and will raise his game. It's not impossible that his leadership might be challenged at some point but the debate is much more likely to focus on political strategy and the balance and inclusiveness of his Number 10 operation and Cabinet.