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Why May won’t sack Gauke, Clark and Rudd

Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke have issued a blunt warning to Tory Brexiteers. Credit: PA

The warning in the Daily Mail by Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke that Brexit should be delayed rather than risk a no-deal Brexit is a clear breach of Cabinet collective responsibility.

But they won’t be sacked by Theresa May, and are getting away with an almost invisible rebuke because the PM would be insane to choose to remake her top team when she (like Corbyn) is struggling to hold her party together.

But these are febrile times.

And the absence of retribution this morning prompted the prominent European Research Group (ERG) Brexiter Andrew Bridgen to smell Downing Street conspiracy.

Andrew Bridgen, one of several Tory MPs who expressed no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May, believes the attack on Brexit was sanctioned by the PM's communications team. Credit: PA

On Today he alleged May’s director of communications, Robbie Gibb, had sanctioned the ministerial trio’s conspicuous attack on the PM’s refusal to take no deal off the table - and in the process highlight her ebbing authority.

"That is not how Robbie sees it," a minister told me, euphemistically. "Drat! Rumbled!" said another.

But that said the trio, unthanked by the PM, do believe they are doing her a favour.

Because they are sending a message to Bridgen and the rest of the ERG to cease their frustration of May’s deal or risk seeing any version of Brexit slip through their fingers.

Whether that persuades the ERG to lay down their arms next week is doubtful.

The PM is struggling to keep her party together amid Brexit uncertainty. Credit: PA

Which means that the PM probably won’t feel strong enough to unilaterally take no deal off the table.

Which in turn means the trio will probably have to resign to defy her and vote on the Cooper Letwin amendment that would force her to sue the EU for a Brexit delay.

At the risk of falling into the trap of hyperbole, the votes in the middle of the week could be when the Tory Party’s 30-year internal dispute over what this country’s future relationship with the EU should be will reach its moment of purest, most extreme and destructive madness, from which the party itself will struggle ever to heal.