Ministers call Theresa May to offer support after nightmare speech
The PM was interrupted by a heckler and then by a persistent cough during her keynote address.
Cabinet ministers have been calling Theresa May to offer their support after her nightmare speech to the Conservative Party conference amid suggestions that MPs are posing fresh questions about her leadership.
A Number 10 source confirmed the calls “offering support” but declared “resignation is not an issue” for the Prime Minister.
It came after backbench Tory MP Mark Pritchard said colleagues were texting each other about Mrs May’s calamity-ridden address but warned them “there is no vacancy at Number 10”.
For small number of MPs texting MPs asking what we thought of PM's speech (or circling above) one message: there is no vacancy at Number 10!— Mark Pritchard MP (@MPritchardUK) October 4, 2017
Mrs May’s speech was marred by a series of unfortunate events, including a stage invader handing her a P45 unemployment notice, a cough repeatedly bringing her oration to a halt, and letters falling off the party slogan on the backdrop behind her.
The address was billed in some quarters as potentially make or break for her premiership following the botched snap election in which the Tories lost their majority.
But announcements including £2 billion to boost council home building and a new law to cap energy prices to help voters “left behind” by an unbalanced economy were overshadowed by the plague of mishaps and interruptions.
It is not known whether Boris Johnson, who has been the subject of fevered leadership speculation amid his perceived disloyalty on Brexit in recent weeks, was one of the ministers who called the PM.
One Tory MP claimed the Foreign Secretary’s allies had “magnified” their soundings out of support among colleagues.
But following the speech, the Foreign Secretary tweeted: “Great job by the PM today putting housing at the heart of renewing the British dream.”
Great job by the PM today putting housing at the heart of renewing the British dream— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 4, 2017
Meanwhile, Mr Pritchard warned colleagues away from a leadership challenge, tweeting: “For small number of MPs texting MPs asking what we thought of PM’s speech (or circling above) one message: there is no vacancy at Number 10!”
Referencing the furore over Mr Johnson, prankster Lee Nelson, a comedian, claimed the Foreign Secretary had told him to give Mrs May her P45, as he was bundled away by security and arrested by police to prevent a breach of the peace.
His stunt raised questions about the PM’s security after it emerged he had attended the conference with legitimate accreditation, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would look “carefully” at the incident to prevent it happening again.
Downing Street sources insisted that Mrs May was “happy” with how the Manchester speech had gone, blaming a “conference cold” and the combined effect of 28 broadcast interviews and 19 receptions for the croaky voice which repeatedly forced her to stop.
After she had finished, she tweeted a photo of a range of throat medications next to a copy of her speech, with the single-word comment “*coughs*”.
*coughs* pic.twitter.com/1b6CoW5Mrz— Theresa May (@theresa_may) October 4, 2017
But her occasionally highly personal speech seeking to offer voters a “British dream” capped off a Tory conference noted for its lack of attendees and during which Mr Johnson continued to court controversy.
The PM will remain under pressure to sack her Foreign Secretary after he sparked outrage on Tuesday evening by telling a meeting on the fringe of the conference that the Libyan city of Sirte could be like Dubai if the locals could “clear the dead bodies away”.
The Tories also came in for criticism from musicians Calvin Harris and Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, who said they did not approve or support the party playing their songs at the conference.