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'Emotional' May wins backing of Tory backbenchers for her Brexit strategy

By Shaun Connolly

Theresa May has delivered an "emotional" address to backbench Tory MPs following talk of attempts to oust her as Prime Minister.

Mrs May "won the room" and secured her position with a "heartfelt" speech to the backbench 1922 Committee, ex-Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.

Leave-backing MP Michael Fabricant called the gathering a "love-in" for Mrs May.

The PM's address came after a torrid week in which an anonymous MP was quoted as saying Mrs May should "bring her own noose" to the meeting.

Ms Rudd praised the PM, saying: "She got a warm welcome, she talked quite emotionally about why she was doing this [Brexit plan] for the good of the country and how it was important that the public and our party members realise that we are behind her and that we all wanted the same thing - which is to lead in the best interests of the country."

Asked if the PM looked emotional, Ms Rudd said: 'Well she looked like she really minded - it wasn't reading from a script.

"She was talking frankly and honestly from the heart about why she was doing this and why it mattered."

Ms Rudd said a lot of MPs condemned the "really nasty language" that had been used in the run-up to the meeting.

Amid claims that the number of letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee from MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in the PM was close to the 48 level needed to trigger a ballot, Ms Rudd insisted Mrs May's position was now safe.

Ms Rudd said: "She was able to win the room and deliver something quite personal and emotional about why she was committed to doing it, despite being quite frank about the difficulties that were still there.

"People spoke very freely about their concerns ... but they came back to the fact that they backed her in delivering for the country and the Government."

Mr Fabricant said: "It wasn't Daniella in the lions' den - it was a petting zoo."

Meanwhile, the SNP has said Brexit is the "elephant in the room" prolonging the political vacuum in Northern Ireland.

NI spokesman Gavin Newlands argued the "broader instability" caused by Brexit is key to why it has been so difficult to restore Stormont.

Theresa May's Government, he said, has become "totally distracted by Brexit and internal party infighting".

Speaking during the second reading of the Northern Ireland Bill, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North said such legislation had "sadly become necessary", but added a political vacuum must not become the "new normal".

He said Northern Ireland is the "central conversation" in the Brexit talks and therefore it is "vital that its voice is heard".

Brexit, he warned, is "wreaking havoc on every aspect of politics in these islands", adding: "The broader instability caused by Brexit is a central reason why it's proven so difficult to restore the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland.

"There are many reasons why the Executive and Assembly collapsed, but it is the elephant in the room - Brexit - which is prolonging the concerning political vacuum."

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