Theresa May sought solace in church today as her premiership hung by a thread – with Cabinet ministers openly warning that things must change and the mooted deal with the DUP threatening to descend into chaos.
As the Tories went into meltdown after the election disaster, a series of former ministers broke cover to warn that the PM is living on borrowed time.
Ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan insisted a new leader must be put in place over the summer, while former chancellor George Osborne branded Mrs May a ‘dead woman walking’. Boris Johnson is being urged by some MPs to step in and oust her.
Jeremy Corbyn turned the screw by saying that another election would be a ‘good thing’, as a poll suggested Labour could win a rerun outright.
Even the arch-loyalist Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, admitted he and senior colleagues had bluntly informed Mrs May that she must take a ‘different approach’ to cling on.
Embattled Mrs May is set to have a stormy showdown with her party critics tomorrow night after the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs brought forward its meeting by 24 hours.
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Theresa May went to church in Sonning, Berkshire today in the wake of her disastrous election result last week
Mrs May and husband Philip took Holy Communion at the church this morning
Sir Michael said the Tories’ position on Brexit had not changed despite calls for a softer approach to leaving the EU
As the fallout from the bombshell election continued today:
- Mrs May’s bid to shore up the Conservatives with support from the DUP hit a stumbling block. Downing Street declared that the principles of a deal had been done, only for the Northern Ireland party to say that there was not yet an agreement.
- Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who handed the PM a lifeline by winning 12 seats from the SNP, spearheaded growing concerns about the alliance with the DUP pointing to their record on gay rights.
- Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon condemned the views of a DUP MP that gays were ‘repulsive’ after being confronted with quotes on live TV.
- Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said Mrs May could not lead the party into the next election and suggested a leadership contest could take place over the summer. Ex-minister Anna Soubry insisted the PM’s position is ‘untenable’ and she would ‘go in due course’.
- It was claimed that Mrs May was in tears over the election result before going to seek the Queen to ask permission to form a government on Friday.
- Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused the PM of ‘squatting’ in Downing Street.
- Ms Davidson led calls from Remainers across parties including Tory grandee Lord Heseltine and Labour’s Yvette Cooper for the government’s approach to Brexit to be softened in the wake of the election.
- Mrs May tried to shore up her position by installing her friend and long-time ally Damian Green as her effective deputy as she reshuffled her top team. But in a sign of how weak the PM has become, very few senior positions changed hands.
Mrs May will hold talks with DUP leader Arlene Foster in London when parliament returns on Tuesday.
After the PM was forced to jettison her closest aides Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, Sir Michael made clear she had been told she had to take a ‘different approach’.
There will have to be ‘more collective decision making in Cabinet… I and other senior colleagues have made that clear to her,’ Sir Michael told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Sir Michael was also confronted with comments from DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr, who previously said he was ‘pretty repulsed by gays and lesbian people’.
The DUP’s attitude on gay rights is causing alarm among many Tories, who fear the deal to prop up the government could fatally undermine attempts to show the Conservatives are modern and inclusive.
‘Let’s be very clear, just because they’re going to support us, they’re agreeing to support us on the economic issues, the big economic and security issues facing this country, it doesn’t mean that we now agree with all of their views. We don’t,’ Sir Michael said.
Mr Osborne, who was sacked by the PM last year, said the PM will be ousted from No 10 – the only question that remains is ‘how long she’ll remain on death row’.
He issued the damning verdict on Mrs May as he appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning.
Mr Osborne accused her of being ‘in hiding’ while Jeremy Corbyn is touring the television studios as the victor – despite losing the election.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said today that another general election would be a ‘good thing’
George Osborne said the only question that remains is how long Mrs May will be on ‘death row’ – predicting she could face a leadership challenge by the middle of next week
George Osborne, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, said May is a dead woman walking
He told the show: ‘Theresa May is a dead woman walking, it’s just how long she’ll remain on death row.
‘I think we’ll know very shortly, in other words we could easily get to the middle of next week and it all collapses for her.
‘Or if it doesn’t, and I agree there are many Tory MPs who don’t want a leadership contest right now, it’ll be delayed.
PM TO RESHUFFLE TOP TEAM – AND COULD APPOINT A DEPUTY
Theresa May will try to shore up her position today by reshuffling her top team – and could bow to pressure by appointing a deputy.
Having been so weakened by the election result, the Prime Minister is thought to have limited leverage to move big beasts such as Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond.
On Friday she confirmed Mr Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis in their existing roles.
However, there are signs that she could bow to pressure from her Cabinet by appointing a deputy.
She previously snubbed Mr Hammond by refusing to declare him First Secretary of State alongside his role in No11.
Bringing back senior figures such as Lord Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove could also help restore her authority.
Meanwhile, there are eight ministerial posts that need filling from MPs who were ejected from the Commons last Thursday.
‘But be in no doubt, look at this weekend – you have got the leader of the opposition common on this programme as a kind of victor.
‘And you have got the Prime Minister, who is supposed to have won the election, in hiding, and that speaks volumes about what has gone on in the election.’
Mr Osborne, who stepped down as MP at the election and now edits The Evening Standard, insisted that he was happy to have left Parliament behind him, saying ‘I’m well out of it’.
In a stinging jibe, he also revealed that when Mrs May sacked him last July she said he needed to ‘get to know my own party’.
Appearing on the same programme, Mr Corbyn tried to pile the pressure on the PM by backing another election saying that Labour’ are ready any time’.
Meanwhile, Tory grandee Lord Heseltine opened another flank by suggesting Mrs May would now have to ditch the idea of ‘hard’ Brexit.
He described the Europe issue as a ‘cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservative Party’.
Asked if he thought Brexit could be stopped altogether, the peer said: ‘No I don’t accept it.
‘I think one of the instabilities of the present situation is the parliamentary nightmare of trying to get the legislation through in a situation where self-evidently the House of Lords and the House of Commons are going to a problem.’
Giving a bleak opinion of Mrs May’s prospects, Lord Heseltine said: ‘She will never fight another election as leader of the Conservative party that is for sure.
‘The important thing is how we determine that the leader who takes her place and above all the policy that is going to stop Corbyn gaining power in Number 10 Downing Street.’
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he and senior colleagues had bluntly informed Mrs May that she must take a ‘different approach’ to cling on
Appearing on ITV’s Peston programme, shadow chancellor john McDonnell risked inflaming Labour’s own tensions on Europe by saying the UK could not stay in the single market
The difficulty of getting parliament to pass the Great Repeal Bill – which is intended to transpose EU legislation on to the UK statute books – was part of the reason why Mrs May called the snap Election, as she hoped to return with a larger majority and so avoid critical votes being lost.
But now that the Conservatives have lost their majority in the Commons and are relying on the Democratic Unionist Party to keep the Government going, anti-Brexit campaigners are increasingly confident they can stop the law going through.
Majority of Tory voters want Theresa May to resign, says poll
Few Tory MPs believe Theresa May will still be in No 10 by the end of the summer
A new poll has found that 49 per cent of all voters want Theresa May to resign, with only 38 per cent wanting her to stay put.
And out of the contenders to replace her, Boris Johnson outscores his nearest rival, Chancellor Philip Hammond, by a margin of more than two to one.
A separate survey of Tory supporters by the Conservative Home website found that two-thirds wanted Mrs May to announce her resignation immediately.
Few Tory MPs believe that Mrs May will still be in No 10 by the end of the summer after losing 13 Tory seats – squandering the party’s previous working majority of 12.
Graham Brady, the powerful chairman of the 1922 committee, said he has spoken to Mrs May and told her she has no choice but to be more inclusive in how she runs her government.
It comes after criticisms her woeful manifesto and election campaign bombed because she was too reliant on her two top aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who both quit after the election.
Speaking on the The World This weekend on Radio 4, he said: ‘I think all Prime Ministers are prone to be too closed and working within too closed a circle and certainly these are conversations I’ve had with previous prime ministers.
‘I have had that conversation with her. I don’t go into details of conversations like that because I couldn’t do my job as chairman of the 1922 committee if I did.
‘But certainly one of the things I am very keen on is ensuring that the Conservative Party inside parliament and outside Parliament is as much included as possible in the decision making process.
‘I don’t think that’s ever a luxury, but I the current circumstances I think that’s an absolute necessity.’
He also warned that Tory MPs have concerns about the DUP’s domestic policies – which include opposition to gay marriage and being anti-abortion.
He said: ‘I think there is some concern about the policies of the DUP, which are domestic policies in Northern Ireland.
‘But I think it is pretty clear that any arrangement that’s reached is not going to be a full coalition. It is much more likely that it will be – it’ll entail an agreement that DUP members will vote with the government in the Commons on a confidence vote, they would also vote for key budget measures.’
He was not drawn on how long he thought Mrs May would last in No 10, but said she has decided to stay on out of a deep sense of responsibility.
Brexit is a ‘cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservatives’, says Heseltine
Tory grandee Lord Heseltine opened another flank by suggesting Mrs May would now have to ditch the idea of ‘hard’ Brexit.
He described the Europe issue as a ‘cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservative Party’.
Then on BBC’s Radio 4, asked if the Government would last he said: ‘No. It will not go immediately because there is no appetite for another general election and every party in the house will calculate in their own self-interest.
‘They know the government is weak, they know the economy is going to deteriorate and they know public opinion is going to change from one where they don’t want an election to one where they are calling out for change.
‘So there will come a time when the opposition politicians will strike. In the meantime they will simply harry the government. ‘
Mr Brady said: ‘My perception is that she is being driven absolutely by her sense of duty and responsibility and I think those qualities are exactly what we need now in these difficult times for the country.’
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The Great Repeal Bill is facing a long, hard battle and I plan to fight the Tories every step of the way.
‘Our rights and protections must not be eroded. I do not trust Theresa May on this and will work with anyone on a cross-party basis to stop her.
‘The Government know they don’t have the votes to get this through. My message to them is stark: you need to go back to the drawing board or face defeat.’
Lord Wood, an adviser to Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader, wrote online: ‘There is simply no way the staggering scope, complexity and sensitivities of the Great Repeal Bill can be navigated given the Election result.’
But leading Brexiteers are adamant that any attempt to sabotage the Bill would fail.
Veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash said: ‘Any attempt to frustrate or obstruct the Repeal Bill would be contrary to the will of the people at the referendum, and what people voted for in the General Election.
‘They can try to put down amendments but it doesn’t look to me like they could get the votes to do it.’
At the same time as it tries to get the Great Repeal Bill through Parliament, the Government must also get on with Brexit negotiations in Europe.
The talks are due to begin in just over a week, with EU leaders urging Britain to keep to the timetable despite the Election turmoil.
The comments came as Mrs May’s floundering administration was hit by fresh turmoil after briefing it had struck a deal to get the DUP’s support – only to have to furiously backtrack and clarify that no deal had been done and talks are ongoing.
She is hoping to cling on to power by getting the backing of the DUP’s ten MPs.
But there is already talk that Boris Johnson is considering a leadership bid.
Although the Foreign Secretary sought to quash the speculation by sending a WhatsApp message to Tory MPs telling them to ‘calm down’ and to ‘get behind the PM’.
Ruth Davidson hints Scottish Tory MPs could vote against hard Brexit
Ruth Davidson is seen as a rising Tory star after increasing the party’s number of Scottish seats by 12
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has hinted that her 13 MPs could vote against a hard Brexit.
The politician, who led the party to victory in Scotland, said she wants to ‘put free trade at the heart’ of Britain’s negotiations with the EU.
Theresa May could now be forced to get cross-party support for her approach to the forthcoming discussions after failing to achieve a majority in the snap election which she called.
Ms Davidson has already hinted she will use her sway to influence the Brexit deal, and has insisted there needs to be wider consensus on the terms of leaving the EU.
The 38-year-old, who is seen as a rising Tory star after increasing the party’s Scottish seats by 12, said: ‘I want to ensure that we can look again at issues like Brexit which we know we are now going to have to get cross-party support for.
‘And move to a consensus within the country about what it means and what we seek to achieve as we leave.’
In a hint at the approach she wanted, she added: ‘It is about making sure that we put free trade at the heart of what it is we seek to achieve as we leave.’
Boris Johnson set to mount new bid to become Prime Minister
Friends of Boris Johnson, pictured, believe he has secured the support of Michael Gove for a potential bid to be Tory leader
Boris Johnson is preparing a new bid to become Prime Minister as Theresa May’s grip on No 10 becomes increasingly fragile.
A close ally of the Foreign Secretary said last night it was ‘go-go-go’ for Mr Johnson’s leadership push, adding: ‘We need Bojo. We need a Brexiteer.
‘We need somebody who can talk and connect with people like Jeremy Corbyn does. We need someone who can make Britain believe in itself again.’
Mr Johnson’s supporters are being careful to say that he will not take any action while Mrs May remains in No 10 – but the fact that his allies are actively briefing about his virtues will be seen in Downing Street as destabilising.
Talk of his leadership bid came as Mrs May was rocked by the resignations of the two Downing Street advisers who have been blamed for the Election disaster – and a Mail on Sunday poll which found that half of voters want her to quit.
Such is the febrile atmosphere that The Mail on Sunday was even told that allies of Mr Johnson believe he has secured the support of Michael Gove.
But friends of Mr Gove – who was Mr Johnson’s rival for the leadership in last year’s contest – dispute this.