Theresa May could be toppled by Christmas amid fresh Tory plot
May had hoped her speech would effectively re-launch her premiership and kick-start a Conservative revival with policies to cap energy prices and spend billions on new council houses.
Instead, the policies were overshadowed by a spoof P45, a coughing fit, and the Tory message literally falling down around her as letters fell off the slogan on stage.
British newspaper headlines described the speech with words like “ordeal,” “farce,” “shambles,” “chaos,” “tragic,” “crisis,” “disaster,” and “wretched” on the front pages. May is on a “final warning” after the “most shambolic conference speech in memory,” according to the Times, while the Telegraph claims her future is “hanging in the balance.”
While May’s Cabinet publicly rushed to defend her, speaking of her bravery and resilience in finishing the speech, privately they said she was “limping like a broken horse into oblivion,” and suggested that talks about her departure would have to be “accelerated.”
As many as 30 Tory MPs are preparing to sign a letter calling for May to resign, with one drawing comparisons to Labour’s “sleepwalk into defeat” under Gordon Brown, according to the Telegraph.
A senior Tory source told the newspaper: “The public are far more brutal about these things. They will see a Prime Minister who looks ill, with the stage set falling down. It will compound many of the views that they already have for her. It should be a wake-up call at the moment.
“There were some great policies in her speech, and nobody will be talking about them. We’ve not just been unlucky here, there have been some real, real failings.”
Another MP said: “Things are moving quite quickly. Conversations are being held. The plates are moving more fundamentally now. She has to decide.”
A Number 10 source told Sky that “resignation is not an issue.”
If May refuses to step aside, rebels believe they could win enough signatures to trigger a leadership ballot over the coming months.
There is growing concern, however, that a leadership contest could ultimately spark a general election in which the Tories would be ill-prepared to tackle a surge for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
Tory chairman also facing calls to resign
Conservative Party Chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin has declined to say whether he would quit after a comedian who used to work for the BBC was able to get within feet of May and hand her a fake P45 during the speech.
Many MPs were alarmed that comedian Simon Brodkin had been able to get so close to May and her senior team at the “high security” event.
Asked by reporters whether he would quit following the breach, he said: “It is being looked at. There will be an investigation into what happened. There will be an inquiry. I knew there was sufficient security around the Prime Minister.”