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A majority of Conservative activists do not want Theresa May to remain as leader to the next general election, a survey by an influential Tory website revealed today.
Some 51 per cent say she should step down during this parliament, while nine per cent said she should quit immediately, the monthly survey of members by ConservativeHome found.
The findings come after Mrs May astonished Westminster last week by declaring her wish to fight the next election as leader. Senior MPs poured cold water on the idea and now grass roots activists have done the same. ConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman, a former MP, said the regular survey suggested that a slight recovery in Mrs May’s position earlier in the summer “has stalled”.
“Our judgment is that as matters stand she doesn’t have enough backing within either party members or Conservative MPs to see her words of last week through,” said Mr Goodman.
The Prime Minister faces a major test of the Government’s authority to pass key legislation this week with the start of the Repeal Bill’s progress through the Commons. The Bill, paving the way for withdrawal from the European Union, is set to become a battleground between hardline Brexit backers and MPs urging a softer Brexit to support jobs and growth.
Tory MP Anna Soubry, a former Remain backer, protested this morning that Government whips had adopted a “bullish, rather macho” tactic to cajole MPs into line.
Former minister Ms Soubry blamed whips for claims of a rebellion on the second reading, calling the reports “an absolute nonsense”.
“I thought we had abandoned this sort of rather bullish, rather macho way of doing business over Brexit,” she said. Ms Soubry confirmed, however, that Tory MPs could vote against the Government on amendments later in the Bill’s progress.
Labour has said it could vote against the Bill, prompting warnings by Tory whips that any rebellion by Remain-backers would help Jeremy Corbyn.
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg today mocked ministers for what he saw as little progress on spelling out a Brexit deal with the EU. “It’s like staring at an empty building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea,” he told BBC Today.
Meanwhile, a poll for think tank British Future found four in five Leave voters would not mind if high-skilled EU workers keep coming to the UK to live and work.
However, the poll also found half of Remain supporters back a reduction in the numbers of low-skilled workers from the EU, showing that immigration is still a key issue. @JoeMurphyLondon
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