Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended his Dad’s Army operation to unseat Theresa May as PM, saying “I’ve always admired Captain Mainwaring”.
Speaking at a press conference in Westminster, the leader of the European Research Group (ERG) of hardline Tory MPs denied he was trying to mount a “coup” against May, insisting he was using the legitimate processes of party democracy.
Brexiteer MPs have been attempting to get 48 letters demanding a vote of no confidence in May, which would trigger a vote.
But despite concerted lobbying by Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, the number of public declarations remains stuck at 24.
“Coup is entirely the wrong word.”@Jacob_Rees_Mogg says “coup” is a “silly word” to describe what is happening in the Tory party at the moment. Follow the latest on #Brexit here: https://t.co/B6tQKLXuIz pic.twitter.com/rP8nwbDDd6
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) 20 November 2018
Asked if his attempt to unseat the PM had been exposed as a “Dad’s Army” operation, Rees-Mogg replied: “I’ve always admired Captain Mainwaring.”
Asked why the necessary 48 letters had not materialised, he said: “Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace. We will see what letters come in due time.”
He added: “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.”
He later said that a confidence vote now might give Conservative MPs their only chance to remove May as leader before the next general election.
Asked whether it might prove difficult to secure the 158 votes needed to oust the prime minister in a confidence vote, he said: “I would wait and see about that. You speak to Tory MPs and find Tory MPs who say they are really keen that Theresa May should lead us into the next general election.
“Basically, if there is a vote of confidence it is not just for a year. Getting the 48 letters has shown to be quite difficult, so the idea that in a year you just repeat the process and then she would go at that point I don’t think that is realistic.
“I think it is now or the prime minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election.
“You find MPs privately who will say to you they think that is a really good idea in any number and I would be quite surprised.”
He told the Global Britain press conference: “What we are seeing from this Government is a deliberate decision not to deliver a proper Brexit.
“We have a Government led by Remainers who want to keep us tied into the EU as tightly as possible.”
The EU were launching a new customs paper ‘Fact – NOT Friction’, which aims to ‘explode the myths’ around leaving the customs union.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, a champion of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group, said: “It seems the ERG have again overestimated their support as this event has a lot of empty seats. But as we know about the ERG over the last few days – these people struggle to count.
“But apart from the incredibly diverse panel they put up to speak, their myth-buster was more empty guff. It is just not only wrong but just pure fantasy land stuff like being able to do trade deals in 10 minutes
“This paper was supposed to explode myths about leaving the Customs Union but the only thing blowing up right now is the final vestige of the idea that the ERG are top notch parliamentary guerrilla group.”