Theresa May signals austerity is over and overhaul of Brexit plans

The Prime Minister's new top aide said approach to cuts and EU helped Labour in the election

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Indy Politics

Theresa May’s new chief of staff has signalled that the Government will look again at austerity and its Brexit plans.

Gavin Barwell explained that a key reason his party lost the election is because it struggled to convince people that their “quality of life” would improve under the Tories, while Jeremy Corbyn tapped into their concerns.

The DUP have arrived at Downing Street to hammer out a deal that would give Theresa May a working majority in the Commons.

The Northern Irish party may extract commitments to retain the triple lock on pensions and drop plans to means test the winter fuel payment in return for its support.

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Ms May should work with other parties to form a consensus on Brexit, having met the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

Ms May told Tory MPs at a crunch meeting last night she would listen to all voices in her party on Brexit, in the wake of the election result.

Mr Barwell , who took up his position in No 10 after losing his Croydon Central seat to Labour, told BBC’s Panorama programme that years of spending cuts had taken their toll.

“There's a conversation I particularly remember with a teacher who had voted for me in 2010 and 2015 and said 'you know I understand the need for a pay freeze for a few years to deal with the deficit but you're now asking for that to go on potentially for 10 or 11 years and that's too much,” he said.

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“I think back to the speech that Theresa gave outside No 10 on her first day as Prime Minister, where she made this really powerful point that the country as a whole is doing well economically but not everyone is seeing the benefits of that success.”

He went on: “And I’d like to have seen more of that tone in our campaign, because I think you have to have something to say to people who understand the need for tough decisions but nonetheless need to feel that if ‘I vote for you, my quality of life is going to improve over the next five years’.

“That is something that Jeremy Corbyn was able to tap into.”

Mr Barwell, who lost his marginal seat by around 5,000 votes, also said there was evidence that “angry” Remain voters had ditched the Tories.

He said: “We are very clear in my seat, that the area of the constituency where Labour did best was the area that had voted heavily for Remain… So there's clearly evidence, I think, that people are angry about Brexit still, Jeremy Corbyn somehow managed to get them behind him.”

“We do need to make sure that people that are Conservative-minded that voted Remain in the referendum are happy to continue supporting our party.”

Ms  Davidson, whose influence has grown dramatically with the election of 13 Tories north of the border, has already broken cover to say “this isn't just going to be a Tory Brexit”.

After attending the Prime Minister's political cabinet on Monday, she told BBC News: “I'm suggesting that the Conservative Party works with those both within the House of Commons and with people without to ensure that as we leave the EU we have a Brexit that works for the economy and puts that first.

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“There was a real sense around the cabinet table today, as you would expect from centre right politicians, that that is the primacy we're looking for.”

Ms Davidson suggested the Government may shift its priority from cutting immigration to ensuring a good deal for business and the economy.

After Ms May addressed the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs on Monday, some of those present suggested the PM would consult more with business on her approach to the talks.

Ms Davidson said: “We do have to make sure that we invite other people in now. This isn't just going to be a Tory Brexit, this is going to have to involve the whole country.

“We can make a big, bold offer that brings the country with us, that brings people in from the other side of the aisle in the House of Commons but also brings people in from outside the Commons too.”