Theresa May under fire from former ministers George Osborne and Nicky Morgan despite 'good discussions' with DUP

Theresa May "cannot" lead the Conservatives into another election after a "difficult" campaign saw the prime minister lose her majority, a former cabinet minister has said.

Nicky Morgan said a Tory leadership contest "could" happen this summer as she warned against rushing into another election.

Speaking on ITV's Peston on Sunday, the former education secretary praised Mrs May's "many great qualities", but said: "I think it's fairly clear that Theresa May cannot lead us into another election.

"But I do think if we are going to have a leadership contest in the Conservative Party what we cannot do is have another coronation like last summer."

She continued: "Our members have just worked their socks off for seven weeks and to think that we, as a parliamentary party, could shut them out of a future leadership contest would be deeply discourteous to them.

"Theresa May has many great qualities. She is very competent, she was a strong Home Secretary, she can do the job of being prime minister but clearly that was a difficult election for her."

Mrs May is in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to agree a "confidence and supply" arrangement following the loss of her majority.

On Sunday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said "very good discussions" have taken place with the Conservative Party.

Mrs Foster, who will meet the prime minister in Downing Street on Tuesday with a view to finalising a deal, told Sky News the DUP will "act in the national interest" and "do what is right for the United Kingdom as a whole".

However former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Hestletine said he didn't think an alliance between the Tories and the DUP would last the full term and warned another election could see the Tories lose power altogether.

Speaking to Peston on Sunday, he said: "This is not about personality. At the heart of the Conservative Party dilemma is Brexit. And Brexit is the cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservative Party.

"Unless they address that we are in a very difficult situation where it is conceivable that the next election will put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 Downing Street."

When asked how long a minority Tory government would survive, Lord Hestletine said: "I would have thought two years. And that's chilling.

"Because what does it mean? We know that the economy is not doing well. There's no reason to suppose it's going to improve and above all else Brexit is overhanging it.

"We're going to have a totally artificial negotiation because who can say what party will be in power in a couple of years time, who can say who will lead it, who can say what the policies will be, but what we do know that if the two-year negotiations take place the outcome will be around about the time of the next election, and by that time... all the rhetoric (of pro Leave campaigners) will be exposed for what it was - rhetoric."

Earlier former Chancellor George Osborne described Theresa May as "a dead woman walking".

Speaking to Andrew Marr, Mr Osborne, who was sacked by Mrs May last year said: "It is just how long she is going to remain on death row.

"I think we will know very shortly. We could easily get to the middle of next week and it all collapses for her."

Elsewhere, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon denied that it was a mistake to call a General Election, despite the fact the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority.

Mr Fallon also said there is an "understanding on the outline proposals" with the DUP but that any deal would "not be a coalition".

The Tories forming an alliance with the DUP has sparked protests in London. Credit: PA

More than half a million people have signed a petition against the Conservatives forming a government with the DUP, citing the Irish party's much-criticised stance on gay rights, abortion and the death penalty.

But Mr Fallon insisted that just because the Tories are seeking an alliance with the DUP it "doesn't mean we agree with all their views"

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "We do not agree and we do not have to agree with some of these social issues.

"We have a duty now to form a government and get on with Brexit negotiations."