Conservative MPs have insisted they are backing Theresa May to continue as prime minister and said there will not be a leadership challenge or new general election in the immediate future, enabling the government to push ahead with its plans for Brexit.
Theresa May told a meeting of Tory MPs "I got us into this mess and I’m going to get us out of it", according to one veteran MP who said the party was increasingly united behind the prime minister following the disastrous election result, in which the Tories managed to lose seats.
One MP said the prime minister had showed a more human side and regained the support of her party. “There was none of the Maybot” in her speech, they said.
“She came across contrite and genuine but not on her knees,” they said. “The easiest thing for her to do would be to stand down but that’s not in [her] nature."
Despite suggestions over the weekend that Boris Johnson was preparing a leadership bid, almost all the MPs exiting the meeting said there was no desire for May to step down immediately, especially with Brexit negotiations due to begin next week.
“We are all agreed that that would be a very bad idea and the prime minister agreed,” said a former cabinet minister, who has not been overly supportive of the prime minister, following the make-or-break meeting of backbench Tories on Monday afternoon.
Another former cabinet minsiter said the party was unifying behind May because the only other option was a "a circular firing squad and another election". There was a strong desire among Tory MPs to make the minority government work rather than risk another general election, they said, especially given Jeremy Corbyn's continued rise in the polls.
Hundreds of Conservative MPs and peers crammed into a room in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon to spend ninety minutes listening to the prime minister. Reporters outside the room heard a constant low rumbling of tables being banged approvingly, amidst cheers and shouts. One of those present described the room as "hot in there in so many ways," and another said it was like being at “an Evelyn Waugh minor public school”.
May apologised for the party's election performance and pledged to personally contact every defeated Conservative politician and offer to help them find a new job, according to those present.
One Tory MP, who had been critical of the prime minister, told BuzzFeed News most of the party's politicians were impressed by her performance at the meeting. "She was good. A few subtle digs at Boris. But really good. Humble, measured, apologetic." Another said "she got it right and gave a mea culpa".
The Conservatives are now negotiating with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to form a confidence-and-supply arrangement to prop up the government, despite concerns about the party's stance on LGBT rights and abortion.
Multiple Tory MPs said they had received large numbers of emails from constituents concerned about the DUP's stance on LGBT rights. However, the MPs said they felt more able to ignore the concerns when they realised many emails were due to a co-ordinated lobbying campaign by the left-leaning campaign group 38 Degrees.
The prime minister told the meeting there would be "no watering down" of LGBT rights as a result of any arrangement with the DUP.
Former Tory cabinet minister Owen Paterson told BuzzFeed News the entire issue was a "red herring" – despite the strong concerns of some of his colleagues – as LGBT rights are devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the DUP would not attempt to change policy in the rest of the United Kingdom as part of any deal.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said MPs also celebrated the prime minister's decision to remove her much criticised joint chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who had been accused of running Downing Street in a bullying manner, and the decision to replace them with former MP Gavin Barwell.
"She just went 'We've changed my team and here's Gavin' and we all went 'Wahey we love Gavin!'
"I really don't think she realised what was happening around her."
She said Tory MPs increasingly wanted to act on the concerns which motivated voters to back Jeremy Corbyn in the general election.
"We haven't done enough to reassure public sector workers," said one.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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