'The window is closing' - top Tory warns Theresa May she risks being ousted from Downing St

Posted On: 
29th January 2018

A prominent Tory backbencher has warned Theresa May that the “window is closing” on her time in 10 Downing St.

Johnny Mercer and Theresa May on the campaign trail in Plymouth last year
Credit: 
PA

Johnny Mercer said that although he did not want to see a change in leadership, the Prime Minister needs to do more on big issues such as housing, defence and mental health.

His view was backed up by Mrs May’s former right-hand man, Nick Timothy, who said the Government was lacking “purpose and direction” at the moment.

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But Mrs May got backing from recently departed minister Justine Greening, who urged colleagues to “get behind” the party leadership.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox also waded into the debate, saying it would be “foolish” for Tory MPs to try to rock the boat.

Mr Mercer’s warning this morning echoes concerns he raised in an interview over the weekend, where he said the Tories needed to “get our shit together” or risk Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.

Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by The Resolution Foundation, he sounded a warning to Mrs May that she needed to back up her public statements with action.

“I am of the view that any sort of change of leadership is not helpful at the moment and I don’t support that," he said.

"But I do think the window is closing because politics can be quite a brutal game... Look at defence at the moment and the proposals that came forward for that, which were politically toxic and now we’re starting to change and meet those questions. I think around the NHS, housing has been touched on."

He added: “You know, the Prime Minister talked about things that are brilliant around intergenerational unfairness…but we have to deliver them.

“You can’t just always talk about the speech outside No 10 Downing St, which was very, very good. You have to bridge the gap between that and how it feels if you’re suffering from mental health problems in places like Plymouth.”

Appearing at the same event, Mr Timothy argued the Tories needed to come up with a series of compelling policies to lead them into the next campaign in 2022.

“Certainly when we’re through the hard graft of Brexit there will be not just policies but purpose and direction, which I think the lack of those things at the moment is what is causing the party its difficulties,” he said.

SUPPORT FOR THE PM

Elsewhere, former education secretary Ms Greening urged colleagues to stop “sounding off” and get behind Mrs May.

“I think she’s doing an important job for our country and we need to support her in that almost impossible task she has negotiating Brexit,” the Putney MP told the Today programme.

Her sentiment was echoed by Dr Fox, who fired a warning to restive Tory backbenchers.

“They would be foolish to do anything to destabilise the Government and the Prime Minister. Nothing will change the electoral arithmetic,” he told Bloomberg News.