Tory MPs tell Theresa May: We'll decide if you get to fight next election

Prime Minister has insisted she is ‘not a quitter’ as she pledges to lead party to next election

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 31 August 2017 16:50 BST
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Theresa May in it for the 'long term'

Theresa May has been warned that the Conservative Party will decide on her future, after she indicated she would lead it into the next election.

The Prime Minister surprised Tory colleagues with her defiant statement during a trip to Japan, where she insisted she was “not a quitter”, despite reports she would stand down after overseeing the Brexit process.

During the three-day trip to Japan, where she is seeking to boost future trade relations after Brexit, Ms May confirmed that she intends to fight the next election.

She added: “There’s been an awful lot of speculation about my future, which has no basis in it whatsoever.

“I’m in this for the long term. There’s a real job to be done in the United Kingdom. It’s about getting the Brexit deal right, it’s about building that deep and special partnership with the European Union, but it’s also about building global Britain, trading around the world.”

Pressed to rule out stepping down before the next election, due in 2022, she replied: “I’m not a quitter.”

However, former party chairman Grant Shapps said it was “too early” to talk about going “on and on”, and that her comments would “raise eyebrows” among party members after the disastrous election result in June which saw Ms May wipe out her Commons majority.

He also gave faint praise to the Government’s Brexit strategy, saying people were “impressed by the Brexit papers: not necessarily even the contents, just that we were getting on with the job”.

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think colleagues may well be surprised by this interview last night, and I think it is too early to be talking about going on and on, as Margaret Thatcher once said.

“Let’s get some progress for the British people first. I think that’s the priority.”

Mr Shapps, who was party chair during the successful 2015 election, said: “You can’t go pretending it wasn’t anything other than a disastrous result, of course it was.

“And you can’t jump straight from that to ‘I’ll go on forever’; you’ve got to have an inbetween stage. And the inbetween stage is delivering on some of the stuff we need to deliver.”

He said the Prime Minister should be judged on her performance in the Brexit negotiations, but that it was “probably the case” nobody wanted Ms May to take on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the ballot box again.

It came as a number of senior Conservatives also cast doubt on Ms May’s future.

Former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said it would be “difficult” for Ms May to lead the party into the next election, while party grandee Lord Heseltine said she did not have a long-term future.

However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has been touted as a possible successor to the Prime Minister, said she had his “undivided support”.

On an official visit to Nigeria, Mr Johnson said Ms May was “ideally placed” to deliver Brexit and that he was “here to support her”.

Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 committee, told The Independent: “I think the broad view is nobody wants to revisit the question of leadership and I think the Prime Minister’s comments are broadly welcome as she has made it clear it is off the table.

“I think the fact is that we have got important work to do and the Brexit process is a part of that but there are a great many other things for us to focus on too.”

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