Conservative MPs are considering another attempt at ousting Theresa May if the local elections go badly, as disillusionment with her leadership bubbles up among backbenchers once again.
A string of MPs have told the Guardian that criticism from Nick Boles, a former minister, of her “timidity and lack of ambition” has struck a chord within the parliamentary party, especially among those who believe she is falling short on domestic issues.
At the time it appeared there was little appetite to get rid of the prime minister before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, but frustration with her lacklustre performance, botched reshuffle and shifting Brexit strategy has caused talk of deposing her to resurface.
One former minister said the most dangerous time for the prime minister would be after the local election results in May if there is a wipeout of Conservative-held councils in London, with Barnet, Kensington and Chelsea, and Kingston all potential opposition targets. He also cited areas outside the capital such as Swindon and Amber Valley as potentially vulnerable to falling to Labour or no overall control.
Another senior Conservative MP said he had supported May at the start of her premiership because of her promise to focus on social injustice but it was increasingly clear there was a “vacuum of ideas” at the heart of her government.
He said the natural time for a challenge would be after the local elections, and concerns about the effect on Brexit talks were being overtaken by the urgency of getting a prime minister who would do better against Jeremy Corbyn.