WATCH Theresa May declares 'I'm not a quitter' as she vows to lead Tories into next election
Theresa May has said she wants to lead the Conservatives into the next general election, declaring that she is “not a quitter”.
On her visit to Japan, the Prime Minister insisted she was “in this for the long term” – though some Tories have already hit back at the idea.
Mrs May’s 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.
In the aftermath of the election, former chancellor George Osborne described her as a “dead woman walking”, while some Conservative MPs called on her to depart immediately.
Others said she should leave well before the next general election, which is due in 2022, and Mrs May told the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories she would “serve as long as you want me”.
This week’s Sunday Mirror reported that Mrs May had already set her departure date, and would leave No 10 on 30 August 2019.
But when she was asked whether she intended to lead the Tories into another general election, she told ITV News: “Yes. There’s been an awful lot of speculation which has no basis in it whatsoever. I’m in this for the long term.”
She added: “I’m not a quitter.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, long touted as a potential successor to Mrs May, rallied 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.”
Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons Health Committee, told the Guardian Mrs May was “right to do this to put a lid on the wild speculation”.
Other Conservatives, though, have responded to her comments with scepticism.
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.”