Tory MPs turn on May after chaotic conference speech
Tory MPs have turned on Theresa May after an ill-fated conference address that saw her confronted by a protester before dissolving into a coughing fit.
Furious MPs last night rounded on their beleaguered leader over the debacle, with one telling The Times the Prime Minister was “one crisis from exit”.
The Telegraph reported that up to 30 backbenchers were now plotting against her, describing Mrs May as “limping like a broken horse into oblivion” and calling for talks on her departure to be “accelerated”.
The 70-minute speech, which the party hoped would relaunch her premiership, was marred by an extraordinary series of events.
Firstly, a prankster made it to the front of the stage and was able to hand the Prime Minister a fake P45 form. He later told reporters that Boris Johnson had asked him to do it.
And in a further blow, two of the letters fell off the 'Building A Country That Works For Everyone' backdrop behind her.
In the aftermath, loyal colleagues rallied around her, with chair of the No 10 policy board George Freeman saying Mrs May’s faltering voice “electrified the bond” between herself and the Tory party faithful in the audience.
“I just felt a wave of personal sympathy for her… My heart went out to her,” he told PoliticsHome.
“But then I started to realise it was going to help, because it electrified the bond between her and the audience.
“It made, more eloquently than any of her fine phrases, her central point that she will see this through - she feels a sense of deep, profound commitment to this country.”
James Cleverly added that he was "proud" of the Prime Minister for getting through the speech and John Redwood said MPs supported her "strong message".
But recriminations began last night, with an unnamed Conservative MP telling The Times: “Yesterday I thought she was two crises from the exit, now it’s just one… The question is now whether it’s kinder to all concerned to bring this to a head.”
Nick Timothy, Mrs May's former chief of staff, also weighed into the row, blaming the party's entire top team for a poor conference showing.
In an article for the Telegraph he writes: "This week was the opportunity for the Tories to reset and show the country not only that they understand the need for change, but that they have the policies to change people’s lives for the better.
Unfortunately, they failed to take their opportunity.”
"This is partly down to bad luck, because the Prime Minister’s speech – if anybody hears it – contained a consistent argument.
"But where was the policy earlier in the week? Where was the plan to make our economy truly dynamic? What is the future for school reform? What should we expect from the review of higher education? What about the cost of living?