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Ex-Tory chief whip plays down ‘Theresa May dead in water’ comments

Cabinet minister David Lidington blamed leadership gossip on “too much warm Prosecco”.

A Tory former Cabinet minister has sought to play down reports that he believes Theresa May is “dead in the water”.

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell is claimed to have said at a private dinner that the Prime Minister had “lost her authority” and was “weak”.

Mr Mitchell said the account of the gathering at which he was alleged to have said Mrs May could not continue was “overheated”.

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Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell. (PA)

Former international development secretary Mr Mitchell is alleged to have made the comments at a dinner on June 26, the day Mrs May struck a deal with the DUP to prop up her minority administration in Parliament.

A Conservative MP present at the gathering told the Mail on Sunday: “Mr Mitchell effectively said she was dead in the water. He said she was weak, had lost her authority, couldn’t go on and we needed a new leader. Some of us were very surprised and disagreed with him.”

Mr Mitchell told the Press Association: “This is an overheated report of a private dinner conversation.”

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Brexit Secretary David Davis. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Sutton Coldfield MP is a close ally of Brexit Secretary David Davis, who is seen as a potential successor to Mrs May, and ran his friend’s 2005 leadership bid.

Mr Mitchell did not mention Mr Davis in his comments at the One Nation Commons dining club of Tory MPs, of which he is the secretary, the Mail on Sunday said.

Cabinet minister David Lidington blamed leadership gossip on “too much warm Prosecco”.

The Justice Secretary told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think the summer parties is the key to this. I have been in Parliament 25 years and almost every July a combination of too much sun and too much warm Prosecco leads to gossipy stories in the media.

“The key thing is this: the public has had an election, I think they want the politicians to go away and deal with the real problems that the people of this country are facing.”

On Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday he praised the Prime Minister’s performance, adding: “I see somebody who is very determined to lead and get on with the job.”

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