Theresa May tells MPs: I’ll serve as long as you want me

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the 1922 committee. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty
Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the 1922 committee. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty
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Theresa May has been given a reprieve by Conservative MPs after telling them: “I got us into this mess, and I’m going to get us out of it.”

Senior Conservative sources said there was no appetite for a damaging leadership race and that the Prime Minister would continue in her role, most likely until the end of Brexit negotiations.

One minister said the mood within the party had shifted “from rage to consolidation” following the Conservative’s embarrassing loss of their parliamentary majority.

Mrs May went before the powerful 1922 Committee led by Conservative backbenchers and said she took responsibility for the result.

Sources said the Prime Minister told the meeting, to loud cheers: “I’ve been stuffing envelopes since I was 12 years old, and I will continue to serve as long as you want me.”

Another said Mrs May appeared “contrite, but not on her knees”. Boris Johnson, who has appealed for unity after being named as her most likely leadership challenger, was in attendance.

She was praised for her “emotional intelligence”, with a third source saying: “If we’d seen more of that during that campaign, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

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But while she was given clemency by her own party, the extent to which the Prime Minister is bound to the Democratic Unionist Party was laid bare after the Queen’s Speech was delayed.

The constitutional ceremony in which the Queen sets out the Government’s priorities over the course of the parliament will not go ahead on Monday 19 June as planned, because a deal to secure the DUP’s support has not been finalised.

The speech, which is part of the State Opening of Parliament, could be delayed by up to a week as the Queen is scheduled to attend Royal Ascot from Tuesday through Friday.

Confusion descended into farce after it was suggested the speech could not take place for up to a week after it is finalised because convention requires it to be written in ink on goat skin parchment, which takes a considerable amount of time to dry.

The newly-appointed First Secretary of State Damian Green, who Downing Street confirmed would act as Mrs May’s deputy, said agreement would have to be reached with the DUP before the State Opening could take place.

“Obviously until we have that we can’t agree the final details of the Queen’s Speech,” he said.

Speaking in Downing Street after a meeting of the Cabinet, he was unable to say when the Queen would now open Parliament.

“I can’t confirm anything yet until we know the final details of the agreement.

“We know those talks are going well and also we know that, at this very important time, we want to produce a substantial Queen’s Speech.

Mr Green said there was a “huge amount of work to get on with” for the Government.

“Not just the Brexit negotiations that start next week, but many other challenges that face us and we are determined to produce a Queen’s Speech to ensure we can fulfil the Prime Minister’s ambition to have a country that works for everyone,” he said.

“The DUP are another democratically-elected party, the same way the Liberal Democrats were when we went into coalition with them in 2010.

“So any idea that this deal that we have, the agreement that we want to make with them, is in any way illegitimate is just democratically wrong.”

He added: “I think that the details of the Queen’s Speech, the substance of the Queen’s Speech, is what matters.

“It’s been known for some days that we are seeking an agreement with the DUP.

“That will provide the stability and parliamentary votes that will allow us to do the many important things we need to do - not just in the Queen’s Speech, the legislation there - but beyond that in governing the country that allow us to meet the challenges facing Britain, allow us to get the best Brexit deal for Britain, allow us to make this a country that works for everyone.

“That’s what’s important in the long term.”

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Senior Conservatives admitted that parts of the Tory manifesto will have be “pruned away” in order to govern as a minority with DUP support.

A Downing Street spokesman would not confirm if controversial new charges for social care and the means testing of winter fuel payments in England would be part of the Queen’s Speech.

Brexit Secretary David Davis sidestepped questions on whether the social care plans branded a “dementia tax” by opposition parties would be ditched by the party.

Mr Davis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are being given an instruction by the British people and we’ve got to carry it out.

“That may mean that some elements of the manifesto will be pruned away, shall we say.”

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister brought former justice secretary Michael Gove in from the cold less than a year after she sacked him in a bid to stave off a leadership challenge.

She also allowed her unpopular co-chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, to resign. Former chancellor George Osborne branded Mrs May a “dead woman walking”, warning that she could be ousted from No 10 in a matter of days, while back bench MP Anna Soubry claimed the Prime Minister would be replaced before the end of the year.