Theresa May: 'I got us into this and I will get us out'

Prime Minister strikes a conciliatory tone as she faces backbenchers for first time since general election

Theresa May outside Downing Street
(Image credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Theresa May faced backbench Tory MPs last night in what was seen as a make-or-break meeting for her political future.

According to politicians present, the Prime Minister struck a conciliatory tone, apologising to those who had lost their seats, saying sorry "several times for making the call about the election" and adding "she would serve us as long as we want her".

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Taking full responsibly for the Tories' disastrous campaign, May said: "I'm the one who got us into the mess and I am the one to get us out of it."

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Another senior MP told The Guardian the Prime Minister's performance was "contrite and genuine, but not on her knees" and had taken away the sense of a leadership battle.

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The meeting follows a damning attack from former chancellor George Osborne, who said on Sunday: "We could easily get to the middle of next week and it all collapses for her."

However, the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow says May is not facing an execution: "Despite squandering a huge lead with the most inept campaign anyone can remember, it seems her MPs are willing to let her carry on in the short to medium term," he says.

Grassroots activists, Tory members and MPs agree there is little appetite for a leadership contest at the moment, in part because there is no clear frontrunner who could unite the party after a quick coronation.

A poll found potential challengers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond would all make voters less likely to back the party if they became leader.

Despite May's assured showing in front of the committee, including a promise to consult more with MPs and reassurances that any potential deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up a minority Tory government will not endanger the peace process or infringe LGBT rights, many in the party see her as a caretaker prime minister.

"There is a feeling that the party is holding on to nurse for fear of something worse," says the BBC.

But one senior backbencher said it was "inconceivable she will lead the party into the next election". With odds on the country going to the polls again this year currently at 3/1, it could be only a matter of time before the party moves against her.

Queen's Speech delay: Who's to blame - the government, goats or horses?

12 June

It is the keystone event for the beginning of a new parliament but the Queen's Speech, in which the incoming government lays out its legislative agenda, has been delayed, the BBC reports.

Getting the speech passed in the State Opening of Parliament is seen as a crucial first hurdle for a new administration and with the Tories currently submerged in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up their minority position, the progress of this one is being watched especially closely.

Following their shock loss of 13 seats at last week's general election, the Conservatives will want any deal, currently expected to be a confidence and supply agreement, firmly in place before the speech - if MPs vote it down or even pass any amendments to it, the prime minister must resign.

The event had been due to be held on 19 June, but will now be postponed "for a few days", says the BBC.

Labour said the delay showed the "chaos" engulfing the government.

"Number 10's failure to confirm the date of the Queen's Speech shows that this government is in chaos, as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women's rights," a spokesperson told Sky News, referring to the DUP and its social agenda.

Brexit Secretary David Davis also hinted that the Conservatives would need a heavy redraft of their planned agenda.

Calling it a "matter of practicality", he told Sky: "There may be things that we simply can't put in. That will happen."

However, others say the real reason for the postponement is the length of time it takes ink to dry on vellum, the traditional goatskin parchment on which the speech is written.

In use for a thousand years in English law, vellum is used because it lasts longer than paper: original copies of the Magna Carta, signed some eight centuries ago, are still in good condition.

However, it takes several days for the ink to dry and since the Queen's speech cannot be written until the DUP agreement is made, that could account for the delay, says the Daily Mirror.

"It's also been suggested that vellum is a more appropriate medium for the Queen than the back of a fag packet the speech is currently written on," the newspaper jests.

There is another reason for the delay - the Queen will be busy making her annual pilgrimage to Royal Ascot from Tuesday 20 June. So whether it's for goats or horses, the speech will have to wait.

General Election 2017: 'Dead woman walking' May faces showdown with Tory MPs

12 June

Theresa May faces a showdown with Tory MPs today after a weekend of political intrigue following the party's disastrous general election.

Reports suggest the Prime Minister is losing support from her MPs and that there is a cabinet plot to replace her, leading Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee, to bring forward a meeting of the group which could decide her fate.

"It sets the scene for her having to convince MPs face-to-face that she deserves to survive in No 10," says The Independent.

Backbenchers are likely to want to know why Downing Street announced it had made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to prop up the Conservatives in government only to retract the claim.

They are also expected to express fears of being tarred by association with the anti-gay-marriage, anti-abortion party and seek assurances that the deal will not endanger the province's peace process.

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Former chancellor George Osborne provided the soundbite of the weekend when he called May a "dead woman walking" who could be gone as early as the middle of the week.

"It's just a matter of how long she's going to wait on death row," he said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

According to Politico, "it was a show-stopper of a line, but it is also now the consensus in Westminster that May's authority is shot".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also summed up May's powerlessness, admitting that he and other senior cabinet ministers had told her she had to change and could no longer dictate policy.

Boris Johnson for Prime Minister?

The Sunday Times says as many as five ministers have urged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to launch a leadership bid.

"We are facing a populist and they have realised we need someone who can talk to the people. We need a Brexiteer. Boris is the only option with the liberal values, Brexit credentials and popular appeal," said one unnamed senior Tory MP.

May was warned over the weekend that she had three days to save her premiership "as senior ministers issued ultimatums in exchange for their support", says The Times.

Chancellor Philip Hammond signalled his backing for May was conditional on her moderating her Brexit stance. Ruth Davidson, the leader of Scottish Conservatives, who now have 13 MPs, also called on the PM to retain more ties with the EU.

However, Brexit Secretary David Davis gave May his full backing, despite conceding that the election result was a "nightmare".

"There is a distinction between running a campaign and running a country and running a country is more difficult and she's incredibly good at it," he said.

Jeremy Corbyn delays reshuffle

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror he was prepared to appeal to Labour MPs who had been critical of his leadership, hinting he could broaden his shadow cabinet but adding he would delay any reshuffle in order to focus pressure on the Conservatives.

He called for Britain's negotiating position on Europe to be rewritten and said he could still become prime minister if the Queen's Speech was voted down in the House of Commons.

"I can still be Prime Minister. This is still on. Absolutely," the Labour leader added.

Odds on Corbyn becoming prime minister have shortened considerably, with a Mail on Sunday poll by Survation, one of the only firms to correctly predict Thursday's election result, putting support for Labour on 45 per cent, six points clear of the Tories.

General election 2017: Theresa May to form government with DUP backing

09 June

Theresa May's big gamble - a snap election that she called three years before she had to - has backfired badly, stripping the Conservatives of their parliamentary majority and draining away her personal authority.

Her party ended up the biggest in Westminster, but fell short of a majority, ending on 318 seats, eight short of the target, which left Britian with a hung parliament.

"The Tories failed to win in Labour's heartlands and lost ground in the south as voters rejected her appeal to give her a personal mandate to negotiate Brexit," says The Times. May herself has been "humiliated" by the result.

Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour party finished with 261 seats, has called on May to resign, arguing that the "politics of austerity" had been rejected. She must "make way for a government that would be truly representative of the people of this country", he said.

However May chose to hold onto her position and has announced she will put together a government with the support of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists.

Speaking after visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace, the Prime Minister said only her party had the "legitimacy" to govern.

Brexit calculations

After May failed to gain her majority that would help push through her longed-for 'hard' Brexit, political analysts are wrestling with the implications for Brexit.

"There will have to be a much more consensual approach to what Britain's relationship with Europe becomes," said Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications and an ardent Remainer.

But Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC's political editor, said backbench Conservatives who want to see a hard Brexit could hold more power if May seeks to form a minority government.

Some MPs have already called for negotiations with the EU, due to begin in ten days, to be delayed, but The Economist's Jeremy Cliffe says Britain "may struggle to persuade" the other 27 EU members "to prolong/pause the Article 50 process".

Winners and losers

Support for the Scottish National Party has crumbled, with the SNP losing a third of its seats, including those of former party leader Alex Salmond and current deputy leader Angus Robertson.

Among the high-profile scalps taken by Labour in England was the former deputy PM and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who lost his Sheffield Hallam constituency.

In Northern Ireland, both the SDLP and UUP have been wiped out, losing all of their seats at Westminster. "The confirmed results saw the DUP win ten seats, Sinn Fein win seven and independent candidate Lady Sylvia Hermon retain her seat in North Down," the BBC reports.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall failed in his bid for the constituency of Boston and Skegness, securing just 3,308 votes – well short of the Conservative Matt Warman's tally of 27,271. The party ends the night without an MP, and less than a sixth of the share of the vote it received two year ago. Nuttall has stepped down as leader, and analysts are pondering whether this is the end of the party.

The results so far (649 of 650 seats)

Conservatives: 318Labour: 261SNP: 35Liberal Democrats: 12DUP: 10

6am: It's official: the Conservatives cannot win a majority and Britain is pondering the consequences of a hung parliament. "It has been a terrible, terrible mistake for Theresa May to throw away the majority that was won by David Cameron in 2015," says Jeremy Vine.

5.20am: With 34 seats still to declare, Sky News forecasts that the Conservatives will end up with between 315 and 321 MPs - not enough for a majority. Labour will have 260 to 266 MPs. The total number of "progressive" MPs, including Labour, SNP, Lib Dem, Green and Plaid Cymru members, is likely to fall just short of the Conservative tally - in part because Sinn Fein will not take up its six seats. The Conservatives are likely to seek the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, which could make a "frictionless" post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic a precondition of their backing.

4.55am: Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary and a close ally of Theresa May, has survived two recounts to retain her seat in Hastings. Talk in both the BBC and Sky studios immediately turns to the leadership question: Rudd is seen as a potential successor to the Prime Minister. "May is facing a mounting backlash over her 'catastrophic' election campaign," says the Daily Telegraph. "Senior Conservatives said this morning that she had made 'fundamental strategic errors' and said that her closest aides should be 'banished' from Downing Street."

Asked why his party has done so well, the Labour MP John Woodcock, who is not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, says: "I have no idea."

4.20am: Alex Salmond, the former leader of the SNP, has been defeated by the Conservatives in Gordon. While Theresa May has had a terrible night in England, her party has fared better in Scotland, where it is led by Ruth Davidson. "It's a historic night for the Scottish Conservatives," she says. "We haven't taken multiple seats here for more than 20 years." But she brushes off the suggestion that she might replace May. "I already lead the Scottish Conservative party," she says. "If I wanted to be in the United Kingdom parliament, I would have stood in the United Kingdom in this election." But her main message is about independence: the SNP's plan for a second referendum is dead, she says.

4.15am: Labour has won Croydon Central from the Conservatives, as well as Canterbury, which has been under Tory control since World War One. In Hastings, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, faces a recount.

"There is a conversation going on right now among Conservatives about what they should be doing tomorrow," says Laura Kuenssberg. "One former minister has said to me they find it hard to see how she can stay after this result. I think tomorrow will potentially be a very eventful day."

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3.40am: The BBC makes another slight revision to its forecast, knocking four seats off the Conservative projection and predicting that the party will finish with 318 MPs. With the aid of the DUP, that might be enough to govern, but only just.

Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader, wins less than ten per cent of the vote in Boston and Skegness, the area with the highest Leave vote in last year's EU referendum. The seat is held by the Conservatives.

3.25am: Ten minutes after Jeremy Corbyn called for her resignation, Theresa May takes the stage in Maidenhead to hear her constituency result. She holds her seat, one of the safest in the country, and then makes her pitch to keep the top job. "We have yet to see the full picture emerging," she says. "Votes are still being counted, but at this time, more than anything else, what this country needs is a period of stability." If the Conservatives have won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be encumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability, and that is exactly what we will do."

David Dimbleby says May's choice of words - "a period of stability" - suggests that she does not expect to serve for a full parliament. She "sounded broken", says The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow.

3.15am: Having retained his Islington North constituency, Jeremy Corbyn calls on Theresa May to step down. "Politics has changed, and politics isn't going back into the box where it was before," he says. "People have said they've had quite enough of austerity politics. They've said they've had quite enough of cuts in public expenditure, underfunding our health service, underfunding our schools and our education service and not giving our young people the chance they deserve in our society." He pledged to put the policies outlined in the Labour manifesto before parliament.

Laura Kuenssberg says the strong Labour showing in university towns and cities suggests that young voters may have defied the sceptics and "turned out in droves".

3.05am: Both the BBC and Sky News have updated their electoral projections, based on the exit poll and the results that have come in so far. Both add a few seats to the Conservative column: the BBC now predicts that Theresa May's party will win 322 seats, and Sky says 318. In theory, 326 seats are needed for a majority, but since Gerry Adams has confirmed that Sinn Fein will not take its seats, in practice the magic number is 323. The Conservatives may fall agonisingly short.

2.50am: Nick Clegg, the former Lib Dem leader, has lost Sheffield Hallam, where Labour's Jared O Mara beat him by 2,000 votes. "I never shirked from political battles," he said, after hearing the result. "I always sought to stand by the liberal values I believe in." He said the next parliament would face "the excruciating task of trying to assemble a sensible government" and would have to execute the "agonising" task of negotiating Brexit. "Voters tell pollsters they want politician to put nation before party," says Peter Kellner, "and Nick Clegg did that massively in 2010," when he took his party into coalition with the Conservatives.

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Moments later, Vince Cable regains his old Twickenham seat, which he lost in 2015, and Joe Swinson returns to the Commons too. But on a decidely mixed night for the Lib Dems, Tim Farron faces a recount in his ‎Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency.

2am: Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair's director of communications, tells ITV News that "Brexit cannot go ahead under the current timetable". Negotiations with the EU are due to begin in ten days, but it is far from certain that the UK will have a government in place by then. Nigel Farage says it was a "huge mistake to put Theresa May, a Remainer, in charge of Brexit, and says he may have "no choice" but to make yet another comeback as Ukip leader. "We may well be looking down the barrel of a second referendum," he tells the BBC.

There's some good news for the Conservatives in Scotland, where they've taken Angus from the SNP with a 16 per cent swing. The BBC's Emily Maitlis suggests that tactical voting among unionists may have contributed to the Tory win. But in London, Labour have won Battersea from the Conservatives, with a swing of ten per cent.

1.45am: Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, says "Theresa May's authority has been undermined by this election". Describing her as "a damaged Prime Minister whose reputation may never recover", he accused her of failing to present voters with a positive vision for government. "It's astonishing what this does for the internal dynamics of the Labour party, says Amol Rajan's, the BBC's media editor. Many Labour MP's on the anti-Corbyn wing of the party now find themselves unexpectedly retaining their seats, thanks, it would seem, to Corbyn's unexpected popularity.

1.40am: "Hope has triumphed over fear," says Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general. "Labour hopes to form a government," she adds, before dodging questions about whether a minority Labour government could negotiate a successful Brexit. Talks led by Labour, possibly with the support of the SNP, "would completely open up, reshape and change any negotiations over Brexit", says the BBC's Andrew Marr.

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1.20am: "The SNP are losing ground quite substantially north of the border," says Professor John Curtice, as Labour gain Rutherglen and Hamilton West from the Scottish Nationalists. The Conservatives increased their share of the vote by nearly six per cent, but a nine per cent fall in the SNP's vote handed the seat to Labour. Curtice suggests that the result reinforces the exit poll's forecast that 20 or more Scottish seats will change hands.

1am: Ukip has lost its deposit in ten of the seats it contested, Sky News reports, on what looks set to be a terrible night for the party. The news is more mixed for the Lib Dems: the exit poll suggests it will gain several MPs, but reports suggest that former leader Nick Clegg will lose in Sheffield Hallam - and that the party has lost 11 deposits.

12.40am: HuffPost UK's Paul Waugh says Labour expect to win in Kensington and Chelsea, previously one of the safest Conservative seat in the country - but also an area that voted heavily to stay in the EU. It's full of "EU-loving citizens of nowhere", says ITV's Robert Peston. The theme of both the results and the rumours seems to be that the Conservative are outperforming the exit poll in northern England, while Labour outperform it in the south.

12.30am: As results trickle in, thoughts turn to what happens next. "Former chancellor George Osborne, who was sacked by Mrs May last year, said the result would be 'completely catastrophic' for the Tories," reports Sky News. He told the broadcaster that it's "difficult to see, if these numbers are correct, how they would put together the coalition to remain in office". Brexit negotiations begin in ten days, Andrew Marr points out on the BBC, "but what happens if there is no Prime Minister who commands a majority in the House of Commons to have those negotiations with? There may be no choice but to delay that, and it may be a very long time before we have a prime minister with a Brexit plan."

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12.15am, 9 June: Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, tells the BBC that Labour "may form the next government" - but she rules out a coalition. "Either the Conservatives will form a minority government," she says, "or Labour will form a minority government." But Ken Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor, casts doubt on the exit poll's "very complicated methodology" and predicts that his party will win a slim majority. "The worst possible outcome would be a hung parliament," he says.

11.55pm: The pattern of the night is repeated in Newcastle East, the fourth constituency to declare: Labour hold the seat, but the Conservatives do better than the exit poll predicted. Immediately afterwards, the Conservatives have their first MP, holding Swindon, but here Labour have outperformed their exit poll forecast.

11.45pm: Labour hold Sunderland Central, but for a third time the Conservatives have outperformed the exit poll. But, says pollster Peter Kellner, if Amber Rudd's Hastings seat is at risk, then Labour have done much better there than the poll predicts. The early signs are "contradictory", he says. What is clear is that the Ukip vote has collapsed, and has gone mostly to the Conservatives. There are rumours too, the BBC reports, that Nick Clegg may have lost his Sheffield Hallam seat.

11.30pm: Already the talk of a leadership challenge against Theresa May has begun. "She will be hugely weakened in the biggest negotiation that any Prime Minister has had to undertake," says Fraser Nelson in The Spectator. "If, indeed, she survives long enough to undertake it – which is by no means certain if she does worse than David Cameron managed to do against Ed Miliband. She will have taken a position of strength and blown it."

The Ukip leader appears to agree:

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11pm: The first result comes in, and it's from Newcastle Central rather than Sunderland South, which usually declares first. Labour holds the seat, but with only a two per cent swing towards the party, not the seven per cent swing forecast by the opinion poll. That could mean that the Conservatives might have outperformed the exit poll, according to Peter Kellner, the former president of YouGov.

It is followed a few minutes later by the result from Houghton and Sunderland South. It is also held by Labour, but also with a smaller swing to Labour than the exit poll predicted.

10.30pm: Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary tells the BBC that it is too early to draw any conclusions. "We haven't had a single result yet," he says.

David Dimbleby also voices reservations. "Boy oh boy oh boy are we going to be hung, drawn and quartered if this is all wrong, which it still might be," he says. And's business editor, at the count in Dartford, says Labour insiders are as surprised as everyone else by the exit poll.

Forecasts at this stage of the evening can be mistaken, even though "in the last decade and a half the exit polls have become much more accurate", says The Guardian. The margin of error is up to 20 seats, which could mean the Conservatives did scrape together a majority.

But an early rumour from the south coast pointed towards Tory difficulties: Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, may be "in trouble" in her Hastings constituency, the BBC reports.

On the currency markets, the pound dips by 1.5 per cent as traders prepared for the uncertainty of a hung parliament.

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