‘Apologetic’ Theresa May avoids leadership challenge

Theresa May paced through the gauntlet of journalists in the Westminster corridors and into a packed Committee Room 14 to face her MPs for the first time since her disastrous election campaign.

In a scene one MP described as like an Evelyn Waugh minor public school assembly, the PM’s arrival was greeted with traditional cheers and thumping of hands against desks.

“Maybe they’re banging their heads against the tables,” said a journalist outside.

Inside the committee room, the PM was defiant.

“I got us into this mess and I’m going to get is out of it,” she told her MPs.

“There was none of the Maybot,” one MP commented afterwards.

The general feeling beforehand was that May needed to strike a conciliatory tone and recognise the damage done. It seems she achieved this.

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“She was contrite, genuine but not on her knees,” said a veteran backbencher.

“If she’d performed like that during the election, we’d have done much better,” said another senior Conservative.

The PM was described as both “apologetic” and “impressive” – giving what was described as an “emotionally intelligent” speech. There was a discussion about what went wrong and what went right in the General Election.

On Brexit, the PM is said to have promised to “listen to all sides of the party”.

Both Leave and Remain supporting MPs coming out of the meeting seemed to agree on one thing: there would be no leadership challenge.

“The whole party agreed” and there was “not a single dissenting voice”, according to one MP.

But one former Cabinet minister refused to comment on this, only to say they were “still digesting the result”.


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Mrs May confirmed that talks with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) were moving forward but there would be no veto or attempts to change LGBT rights.

Equally, any agreement would have no impact on the ongoing negotiations to re-establish the Northern Irish Assembly.

Earlier, First Secretary of State Damian Green told Sky News he could not confirm when the Government would be in a position to put forward a Queen’s Speech.

The Queen is due the set out the Government’s programme on 19 June, but that may be postponed until the PM’s negotiation with the DUP is settled. They are due to hold talks on Tuesday.

Mrs May will be under pressure to scale back some her policies from those in her own party who want a “softer” stance on Brexit. She will also have to consider what support she will get from an enlarged Labour Party.

Senior Tories acknowledged that the failure to secure an overall majority in the Commons will mean the agenda set out in their manifesto would have to be “pruned back”.

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Details of which elements of the manifesto might be dropped have not been confirmed, but it is thought that Mrs May’s poorly received proposals for funding social care and her ambition to open new grammar schools may have to be ditched.

The Prime Minister set out on her snap election to strengthen her leadership, but the hard reality is a future of consultation, alliances and compromise.

The first group to win over was her own MPs.

That seems to be going fine for now, but it is very early days.


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