Theresa May has lost the support of Conservative members who want her to resign after her election failure, according to a large survey.
Almost 60 per cent of grassroots Tories told the ConservativeHome website that the Prime Minister must fall on her sword after destroying her Commons majority.
The results were described as “astonishing” by the website’s editor, former MP Paul Goodman, who said: “It is the most damning finding in one of our polls that I can remember.”
The verdict suggests that Conservative MPs, back in their constituencies, will be facing strong pressure to mount a leadership challenge when they return to Westminster next week.
Since Friday’s results, some senior Tories are referring to Ms May as an “interim leader” – and her Cabinet has failed to come out publicly to support her.
It would require 15 per cent of Conservative MPs – a total of 48 – to write to Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, to trigger a vote of no-confidence in her leadership.
Ms May would be forced to resign if she then failed to win a majority. Alternatively, the Prime Minister could decide the game is up and quit without a vote.
ConservativeHome received 4,763 replies in just 24 hours to its post-election survey on Ms May’s future – “the second-biggest response and the most rapid”.
Of those, 65 per cent said the Prime Minister should go. Among members, 894 of 1,503, almost 60 per cent, said her time is up.
Mr Goodman said: “Obviously, party members and our readers are angry in the election’s aftermath, and it may be that if the question is asked again in a week’s time, it gets a different answer.
“It is the most damning finding in one of our polls that I can remember.
“The view of our readers as a whole? 65 per cent believe that May should announce her resignation, and 31 per cent do not.”
The influential website is urging her to strengthen her Cabinet by bringing back “her most heavyweight critics off the backbenches” – including Michael Gove, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan.
“This is a time for humility, reconciliation – and all hands on deck,” Mr Goodman added.
However, Conservative MPs appear to have rejected the Prime Minister’s Downing Street statement that a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could keep in place for a full five-year parliament.
An assumption seems to be growing that she should stay only in the short term, to provide stability and start the Brexit talks, before making way.
One former minister, Ed Vaizey, indicated that Tory MPs were actively discussing Ms May’s position using the WhatsApp messaging system.
Asked if there were phone calls being made between Tories about the next leader, Mr Vaizey told the BBC: “That’s so 20th century. It’s all on WhatsApp. Lots of MPs are in lots of different groups.”
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