The Scottish Mail on Sunday
FALL of the ‘GRUESO ME TWOSOME’
PM was told: sack your toxic personal aides... or face a leadership contest ‘tomorrow’
THERESA MAY lost her two most powerful – and notorious – advisers yesterday as she fought to cling on to power at No10.
Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who formed her formidable Praetorian Guard in Downing Street, were forced to resign amid mounting anger in the party over Mrs May’s disastrous General Election result.
The position of the ‘gruesome twosome’, as they were dubbed by colleagues, had become untenable after senior party figures warned Mrs May that she could face a leadership contest as early as tomorrow if she didn’t sack them.
The resignations will be a devastating blow to the Prime Minister, who has relied on their advice and protection since first entering the Cabinet as Home Secretary more than seven years ago. It now leaves only husband Philip in her small group of trusted confidantes.
The joint chiefs of staff were blamed by Tory MPs for the failure of the campaign, with bearded Brummie Mr Timothy coming in for particular criticism for including the so-called ‘dementia tax’ in the manifesto. Yesterday, he denied being responsible for the policy.
Critics have also accused them of ‘arrogance and rudeness’ towards MPs and officials, and said that Mrs May made errors because she gave priority to their opinions over those of her Cabinet.
Ms Hill said last night that it had been ‘a pleasure to work with such an excellent Prime Minister’, adding: ‘I have no doubt at all that Theresa May will continue to serve and work hard as Prime Minister – and do it brilliantly.’
The former aide was born in Glasgow and attended St Stephen’s RC Secondary School in Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire. During her twenties she worked as a journalist with The Scotsman newspaper.
In his statement, Mr Timothy took responsibility for the failure of the campaign but denied the ‘dementia tax’ had been his ‘pet policy’.
The dramatic resignations came as party insiders revealed the shock when the exit poll was published at 10pm on Thursday.
While Mr Timothy, 37, and Ms Hill, 44, were running operations at Tory HQ, Mrs May was at home in Berkshire watching coverage with her husband. A source said: ‘I think the gruesome twosome must have received a leak because, before the poll was released, they started pulling people into rooms, then emerging looking shocked.’
The campaign consultant Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded David Cameron’s 2015 General Election victory, started marching round the room telling staff not to panic.
One of the criticisms levelled at Mrs May is that she allowed Mr Timothy and Ms Hill to take effective control of the campaign, rather than hugely experienced Sir Lynton. The source added: ‘If Fiona had spent more time briefing against Jeremy Corbyn, and less time briefing against the Chancellor, then we might have achieved a better result.’
One of the most senior figures in Mrs May’s administration yesterday added to the impression of chaos by launching an outspoken attack on her ‘toxic’ and ‘dysfunctional’ Downing Street, accusing the unelected Ms Hill and Mr Timothy of bullying Ministers and sending ‘rude text messages’.
Katie Perrior, Theresa May’s former director of communications, said that No10 ‘bloody well stank’ of ‘arrogance’.
The ousting of the aides comes a fortnight after it was revealed that Cabinet Ministers were keeping notes of exchanges with Mr Timothy and Ms Hill – containing offensive language – and threatening to release them if they were sacked in a reshuffle. It was later reported that Chancellor Philip Hammond was among the Ministers who had kept notes.
In his statement, Mr Timothy said: ‘The reason for the disappointing result was not the absence of support for Theresa May and the Conservatives but an unexpected surge in support for Labour.
‘Britain is a divided country: many are tired of austerity, many remain frustrated about Brexit, and many younger people feel they lack the opportunities enjoyed by their parents’ generation… the Conservative Election campaign failed to get this, and Theresa’s positive plan for the future, across.’
He added: ‘I take responsibility for my part in this campaign...in particular, I regret the decision not to include in the manifesto a ceiling as well as a floor in our proposal to help meet the increasing cost of social care.
‘But I would like to make clear that the bizarre media reports about my own role in the policy’s inclusion are wrong: it had been the subject of many months of work within Whitehall, and it was not my personal pet project.’
‘No 10 bloody well stank of arrogance’