JUST TELL HER PHIL
TOP TORIES URGE HUSBAND TO PERSUADE MAY TO QUIT
SENIOR Tories are turning to the only person they believe can persuade Theresa May it’s time to go.
Her husband Philip is being urged to step in after cabinet ministers turned against the prime minister and warned that her Brexit deal is dead.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘The person closest to her is clearly her husband and I think somebody has to say, “look, nobody likes this”.
‘The best thing for her, and the best thing for everybody else, is to break away and say it’s time to find a new leader.’
Mrs May could announce her resignation as early as today following a showdown with Sir Graham Brady, head of the backbench 1922 committee. She had pledged to set a date for leaving after MPs voted on her withdrawal bill in the first week of June. But that vote was pulled yesterday after a succession of cabinet ministers withdrew their support and a poll predicted a near wipeout for the Tories in the EU elections. Mrs May
was voting at her Maidenhead constituency after a night of drama that saw Andrea Leadsom quit as Commons leader over her approach to Brexit.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and home secretary Sajid Javid met the prime minister individually – after she refused to see them on Wednesday – and told her to drop her offer of a vote on a second referendum if her bill was passed.
No.10 said she was ‘listening to colleagues’ and still planned to put her deal to MPs. Mrs Leadsom’s temporary standin, Mark Spencer, told MPs they would have more details when they return from an 11-day break that starts today. ‘We are hoping to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the first week of June, and we will update the House after recess,’ he explained.
The 1922 committee has already made its decision on whether to allow an immediate vote of confidence in Mrs May. Members’ votes are in sealed envelopes which will not be opened until she has met chairman Sir Graham today.
Senior members said they want her to resign rather than be forced out. ‘There will be overwhelming pressure for the ’22 to change the rules and hold a ballot on confidence,’ said treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Mr Hunt said he expected Mrs May to still be in office when US president Donald Trump arrives for his state visit on June 3.
Westminster sources have suggested June 10 as the possible start of a leadership contest. Mrs May is thought to want to hold on until at least May 30 when she will overtake Gordon Brown’s two years and 319 days in office.
Mr Duncan Smith – himself deposed in a backbench rebellion 16 years ago – faced a backlash on social media over his remarks last night.
‘Pity no one had a word with Mrs Duncan Smith years ago,’ tweeted Mark Wright. ‘The country would be a different place.’
Another commentator posted: ‘Perhaps it’s time for Betsy Duncan Smith to tell her dinosaur husband to retire and spend his time tending his vegetables.’
Mrs Leadsom – who could join former foreign secretary Boris Johnson in the race to succeed Mrs May – said resignation is ‘a matter for her’. She added: ‘It’s for the prime minister to decide what’s right for her and for the country.’
Treasury minister Mel Stride was last night announced as her replacement.
The results of the EU election will not be announced until late on Sunday but the final poll of the campaign put the Conservatives in fifth place, behind the Greens on nine per cent. The IpsosMori poll put the Brexit Party in first place on 35 per cent, ahead of the Lib Dems on 20 and Labour on 15.
Meanwhile, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned a further Brexit delay beyond October 31 looks likely because of the Conservative infighting.
He said the saga proved leaving the EU is ‘not easy’ and added of Mrs May: ‘I like her very much, she is a tough person.’
‘Perhaps it’s time for Betsy Duncan Smith to tell her dinosaur husband to retire’