Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Way, Mrs May; Top Tories Shoot Down Pm's Claim She'll Lead Them into Next electionBacklash as May Vows to Sign on for Five More Years as Tory Leader

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Way, Mrs May; Top Tories Shoot Down Pm's Claim She'll Lead Them into Next electionBacklash as May Vows to Sign on for Five More Years as Tory Leader

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

SENIOR Tories today crushed Theresa May's claim that she will lead them into the next election.

MPs and grandees shot down her surprise assertion that she is "here for the long term" and will remain Prime Minister into the next parliament.

Even loyal supporters, who said Mrs May was right to assert her authority as premier, admitted there could be no second chance for her to run a general election campaign after throwing away David Cameron's 2015 majority. Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said it would be "difficult" for Mrs May to stay on until 2022, when the next election is due. Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, said Mrs May had no long-term future. Privately, two executive members of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers said "a better campaigner" would be required to fight the next election.

Former party chairman Grant Shapps said MPs would be "surprised" by Mrs May's words and that she was sounding like Margaret Thatcher "talking about going on and on". "You can't go pretending Continued on Pages 6 & 7 Continued from Page 1 it wasn't anything other than a disastrous result," he told BBC Radio 4. "Of course it was. You can't jump straight from that to 'I'll go on for ever.'" He said voters still needed to hear Mrs May say sorry and that she was moving too quickly from the humble tone she adopted after the election on June 8. Mr Shapps said: "I think colleagues may well be surprised by this interview last night and I think it is too early to be talking about going on and on, as Margaret Thatcher once said. Let's get some progress for the British people first -- I think that's the priority." Recalling Mrs May telling MPs in June "I'll serve for as long as you want me", he said: "I think that's absolutely the right tone. It's the tone that she will, I hope, repeat at party conference. The wider membership needs to hear that and the country needs to hear that."

Before her third general election victory in 1987, Mrs Thatcher was asked about a potential fourth term. She told the BBC: "I hope to go on and on."

Katie Perrior, Mrs May's former director of communications at No 10, said the Prime Minister had been right to challenge reports that she would retire in summer 2019, soon after Brexit. Ms Perrior said: "It is the only thing she could say. I know when David Cameron announced that he was going to step down at a certain point, it was downhill from there. She knows in politics you never give your end date."

However, when Ms Perrior was asked on Radio 4's Today show whether Mrs May would actually lead the Tories into another election, she replied: "No."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was the only Cabinet minister to immediately back Mrs May. He said she was "ideally placed" to deliver Brexit and that he was "here to support her". …

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