Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Top Tories rally round PM after conference speech plagued with mishaps

Cabinet ministers have been rallying around Theresa May in the wake of a nightmare speech at the Conservative Party conference which prompted rumours that some MPs were questioning her leadership.

Senior party members have called her to voice their support following the speech, which was plagued by a series of setbacks; including a persistent cough, a stage invader presenting her with a mock P45, and the letters on the backdrop starting to fall off.

But backbench Tory Mark Pritchard suggested a "small number" of colleagues were sharing their anger via text message - and warned them: "There is no vacancy at Number 10."

Taking to Twitter, Wrekin MP Mr Pritchard praised the PM for "pressing on" despite the mishaps, and welcomed her talk of the "British dream".

Her announcements included a £2 billion to boost council home building and a new law to cap energy prices to help voters "left behind" by an unbalanced economy.

The PM suffered from a persistent cough during her speech. Credit: PA

It is not known whether Boris Johnson, who has been the subject of heated leadership speculation in recent weeks, was among those who called Mrs May.

But he did tweet his support.

Elsewhere, business minister Margot James blamed "embittered" former ministers for plotting against the Prime Minister.

"That sort of thing is rife in politics," she told BBC Newsnight.

"There are some ex-cabinet ministers or ex-ministers who are extremely embittered individuals who just want to get their own back on the fact that they don't feel recognised."

Mrs May was handed a cough sweet by Chancellor Philip Hammond. Credit: PA

And Business Secretary Greg Clark, a senior ally of May, warned there was "no mood" within the party for "distractions" such as another leadership race.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he praised the "guts and grace" the PM showed during her speech.

A lot of the people who were there in the hall and watching it on TV will have admired, frankly, the guts and the grace the PM showed.

One of the things that established itself very clearly was that the view of the party - of both parliamentary colleagues and activists - is that they regard, correctly, the responsibility of the Conservative Party to be effective and cool-headed in government.

They have got not patience for distractions from that.

– Greg Clark, Business Secretary

Downing Street sources insisted that Mrs May was "happy" with how the speech had gone, blaming a "conference cold" and the combined effect of 28 broadcast interviews and 19 receptions for the croaky voice which repeatedly forced her to stop.

After she had finished, she tweeted a photo of throat sweets next to a copy of her speech, with the single-word comment "*coughs*".

Mrs May remains under pressure to sack Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson over his perceived disloyalty over Brexit, and a number of controversial comments.

On Tuesday evening, he provoked outrage by telling a meeting on the fringe of the conference that the city of Sirte in Libya could be like Dubai if the locals could "clear the dead bodies away".

And during a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda - the most sacred Buddhist temple in Yangon, Myanmar - he was caught on camera reciting the first verse of Rudyard Kipling's colonial-era poem The Road to Mandalay, sparking accusations of cultural insensitivity.