Senior Conservatives have sought to steady the ship by rallying around Theresa May despite several of the party’s MPs calling for her to resign.
The party moved quickly to rule out a snap leadership contest after her bid to secure an increased majority fell embarrassingly short.
It is amazing to think that Theresa May started from a position of strength but she gambled it and she blew itFraser Nelson
But her days in 10 Downing Street could be numbered, with MPs opening by criticising the dismal Conservative general election campaign and consigning the Prime Minister to a “caretaker” role for the next six months.
The key two aides in Mrs May’s tight inner circle could also be forced out after being blamed for their roles in the failed campaign and unpopular election manifesto.
Fraser Nelson, the editor of the right-leaning Spectator magazine, gave a brutal assessment Mrs May, claiming she “blew it” because she is “useless”.
“No-one forced Theresa May to have this general election, she chose to and she chose to make it all about herself because she wanted greater control over her own party and her own Cabinet,” Mr Nelson said. “It was all ‘me, me, me, Theresa May’s Conservatives, Theresa May’s candidates’.”
He added: “It is amazing to think that Theresa May started from a position of strength but she gambled it and she blew it.
“She blew it because she is no good at campaigning and she didn’t realise how useless she is. She is very much culpable for inflicting huge damage on her party and making her government far less strong and far less stable.”
A senior Conservative source said it was “inevitable” that there would be speculation about Mrs May’s future following the result. “It’s not the situation anyone envisaged 24 hours ago,” the source said, adding that the party’s new MPs in Scotland would struggle to get away from Westminster and be active in their constituencies because of the knife-edge majority.
The source added that there was “no appetite” for a leadership election, and Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, said a challenge “would be the wrong thing to do”.
But pro-EU backbencher Anna Soubry led the attack on the Prime Minister, saying Mrs May was “in a very difficult place” as results came in yesterday morning.
“She is a remarkable and very talented woman and she doesn’t shy from difficult decisions, but she now has to, obviously, consider her position.”
And fellow backbencher Nigel Evans said of the campaign: “We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we shot ourselves in the head.”
“Instead of talking about the things we thought we were going to be talking about – Brexit and the strong economy – we have ended up talking about social care, winter fuel payments, taking lunches off children and fox hunting,” Mr Evans said. “It was an amazing own goal.”
Prominent Tory MP Heidi Allen hit out at the PM’s co-chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy as she predicted Mrs May had a maximum of six months left in Downing Street.
The South Cambridgeshire MP told LBC: “Frankly, if a leader picks people who advise them so badly, and cannot see that they are being advised so badly, then that tells me, I’m afraid, that that’s not the leader that we need.
“Clearly, they weren’t the right people and therefore, by default, to me that means the whole leadership organisation just isn’t functioning properly because it is not responding. The voters are our customers. Clearly we got our product wrong which tells me that the sales team have got it wrong as well.”
Totnes Tory MP Sarah Wollaston tweeted: “I cannot see how the inner circle of special advisers can continue in post.”
The influential ConservativeHome website, edited by former MP Paul Goodman, said the “consensus view” among Tory backbenchers and ministers is that Ms Hill and Mr Timothy “must go”.