Sajid Javid twisted the knife last night as Theresa May faced a fierce backlash from Tory MPs and activists after the party’s worst local election results in a quarter of a century.
In a nationwide bloodbath, the Tories exceeded even the worst predictions of how badly they might do at the polls. By 7pm last night, the party had lost more than 1,300 councillors and relinquished control of more than 40 councils, including in heartland areas such as Chelmsford, Guildford and Chichester.
It was the worst Tory performance since 1995 when – under John Major – the party lost more than 2,000 seats.
Theresa May at the Welsh Conservative party conference at Llangollen Pavilion, Llangollen following the voting in the English council elections
As the Tory civil war spilled out into the open, Cabinet ministers warned the Prime Minister she needed to deliver on her promise to take the country out of the EU – or lose power to Labour. Home Secretary Mr Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who all have their eyes on the leadership, each issued their demands for Mrs May to get on with Brexit.
Tory MPs said the results were ‘dreadful’ and warned the party was ‘haemorrhaging support’. Activists and councillors openly called for the Prime Minister to consider her position, saying they had been ‘given a kicking’ for something that was not their fault.
It means Mrs May is under huge pressure to deliver Brexit before the European Parliament elections later this month, where the party fears another disaster.
Mr Javid warned that the party would not be trusted by voters until the country had left the EU. Speaking at the Scottish Conservatives conference in Aberdeen, he said: ‘This morning, we all woke up to disappointing local election results in England.
‘And there’s no denying the European elections in a few weeks will be even more challenging – in every part of the UK.
‘We are not delivering on a promise at the heart of our last manifesto: That we would leave the European Union on March 29. So there’s an issue with trust.’
Sajid Javid called for an end to the infighting over Brexit, warning: ‘A divided party cannot unite a divided nation’
Mr Javid said the party had an underlying problem with some ethnic minority, young and working-class voters not believing it ‘shares their values and understands their needs’. He also called for an end to the infighting over Brexit, warning: ‘A divided party cannot unite a divided nation.’
Mr Javid warned that if Labour won the next general election – which ‘could well come before 2022’ – the Tories could be out of power for a generation.
Mr Hunt gave Mrs May only a lukewarm endorsement. Asked whether she was the right leader for now, he replied: ‘She is for now and I hope that she’s successful in delivering Brexit and I will certainly support her in doing so.’