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Theresa May ‘not going anywhere’ after showdown with Tory MPs

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Theresa May has faced down her critics at a crunch meeting of Tory MPs, with one saying the prime minister is “not going anywhere”.

Mrs May addressed the 1922 committee of backbenchers in parliament on Wednesday evening, calling for unity as she attempts to avert a reckoning over her leadership.

Disquiet over the PM’s handling of Britain’s EU exit has sparked speculation a vote of no confidence could be imminent.

Mrs May is facing a crucial period in her leadership, as she battles to keep her party on side and secure a withdrawal deal with the EU and get it through parliament.

She arrived at the meeting to cheers, with the sound of desks and doors being banged audible from the committee room where the gathering took place.

The general consensus that emerged after the 45-minute gathering was that Mrs May has steadied the ship and shored up her grip on power.

One MP said afterwards: “She’s brilliantly united the party… well at least for tonight.”

Another described it as a “good meeting”, adding: “There is an appetite among the majority of the party to pull together because the risks are too high.”

Former home secretary Amber Rudd told the assembled journalists outside that the PM had “won the room” and emerged in a “stronger position”.

She said: “She got a warm welcome, she talked quite emotionally about why she was doing this for the good of the country and how it was important that the public and our party members realise that we are behind her and that we all wanted the same thing – which is to lead in the best interests of the country.”

When asked if Mrs May looked emotional, Ms Rudd said: “Well she looked like she really minded – it wasn’t reading from a script.

“She was talking frankly and honestly from the heart about why she was doing this and why it mattered.”








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Video:
Sky’s Tom Rayner looks at mounting scrutiny over Theresa May’s leadership.

Ms Rudd said a lot of MPs condemned the “really nasty language” that had been used in the days leading up to the meeting.

Much of the build-up had focused on anonymous quotes from Conservative MPs to Sunday newspapers, in which they used graphic language to describe the PM’s predicament.

One said she was in a “killing zone”, while another advised Mrs May to “bring her own noose” to the meeting.

There have been suggestions the briefings have backfired and caused MPs to rally behind Mrs May.

MP Michael Fabricant described the meeting as a “love in”, telling reporters: “It wasn’t Daniella in the lions’ den, it was a petting zoo.”

He added that Tory MPs “all realise we need to hold together”.

Mr Fabricant said the PM told the meeting that the endgame of the Brexit negotiations was always going to be tough, particularly when you are dealing with the EU.

Amid talk the number of letters calling for a vote of no confidence in the PM was close to the 48 needed to trigger a ballot, Ms Rudd said she thought Mrs May’s job was safe.

However, there were mutterings the much-vaunted showdown was a stage-managed exercise designed to present a veneer of unity.

One Remain-backing MP walked out at the end, rolled their eyes and said simply: “Delusional.”

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