Former Tory chairman Grant Shapps gives Theresa May 18 months to save her job
A former Tory chairman has given Theresa May 18 months to save her job, after the Prime Minister announced she is planning to lead her party into the next general election.
Grant Shapps said the Prime Minister is currently “on trial” and should deliver Brexit before the party judges her performance.
He also accused her of sounding like Margaret Thatcher, who once famously vowed to "go on an on".
Speaking in Japan, Mrs May insisted she was “not a quitter” and would still be Prime Minister at the next election, which is scheduled for 2022.
Her hold on the leadership has been fragile since her decision to hold a snap general election which resulted in the Conservatives losing their Commons majority.
Mr Shapps told Radio Four's Today programme: "Theresa May has put a lot of emphasis on corporate boardroom responsibility and how the buck stops at the top, and I think it's too early to say, but CEOs are always judged on delivery and performance. We need to see that performance before we can possibly know how long she will stay in Downing Street.
"We've got this massive Brexit thing coming up and she's got 18 months. I've had conversations with 50 or so colleagues during the summer and the overwhelming feeling is she's there, she's got a job to do and then let's see what the performance looks like.
"I think colleagues may well be surprised by this interview and I think it is too early to be talking about going on and on, as Margaret Thatcher once said."
Mr Shapps described the election result as “disastrous” and said Mrs May cannot go from that to “I’ll go on forever”.
“You have got to have an in between stage and that means action. The in between stage is delivering on some of the stuff we need to deliver,” he said.
Mr Shapps stopped short of ruling out a leadership challenge, saying there was not an appetite “right at the moment”.
Her announcement was also met with scepticism by other Conservatives.
One unnamed Tory former minister said Mrs May may have ended up “hastening her own demise”, while a senior MP said they were “utterly dismayed” by the remarks.
Another added that the Tory leader was “harbouring delusions”. They said: “The fact is that everyone knows that she can’t win a general election; she has just proved that. She is weakened, she’s not a winner. Frankly, she is a disaster.”
Former Tory deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine said: "The long term is the difficult one for Theresa May because I don’t think she’s got a long term.”
Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury Committee and has been a longstanding critic of Mrs May since being sacked from the Cabinet last summer, said it would be “difficult” for her to lead another election campaign.
Labour’s Jon Trickett added: “The Prime Minister is deluding herself. Neither the public nor Tory MPs believe her fantasy of staying on till 2022.
“Theresa May leads a zombie government. The sooner the public has the chance to vote out her and her government the better for our country's future.”
But her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who has long touted as a potential successor to Mrs May, threw his support behind the Prime Minister.
He told the BBC: “I've made it clear I'm giving my undivided backing to Theresa May.
"We need to get Brexit done. She's ideally placed to deliver a great outcome for our country and then deliver what we all want to see, which is this exciting agenda of global Britain.
"I think she gets it. She really wants to deliver it. I'm here to support her.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe