LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May has dropped a major hint that she will not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election.
Speaking to The Sun newspaper exactly a year after she was appointed prime minister in July 2016, May refused to confirm that she will still be the leader of the Tories in 2020, saying she intends to remain in power for “the next few years” to oversee Brexit.
“What I want to do is just recognise that there is a job to be done here, over the next few years. I want to get on with doing that job,” May told the Sun.
“My view is I have always said that I would be here for the full term, but what I have also said is that over the years I have given my life to this Conservative Party and I will serve as long as they want me to serve.”
The prime minister’s comments come as behind closed doors a number of senior Conservative figures reportedly want May to stand down and hand over to a successor once Article 50 talks with the European Union conclude in March 2019. A ConservativeHome survey published earlier this month found that over half of Conservative Party members believe May should quit before the next election, which is currently scheduled to take place in 2020.
In her interview with The Sun, May refused to accept that holding an early general election was a mistake, despite the Conservative Party losing its parliamentary majority at such a crucial point in the party’s history.
“I can see why some might say that, as it did not go quite according to plan,” May said.
“There were good reasons why I called it, and I continue to think that it was the right thing to do.”
Since the election a series of Conservative MPs have described May’s campaign as one of the worst they have ever seen.
Conservative MP Nigel Evans criticised May for her so-called “dementia tax”, saying the policy was a “full frontal assault on our core voters — the elderly.” He added: “We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we shot ourselves in the head.” Anna Soubry MP described the campaign as “dreadful” and “appalling” in a BBC interview on election night.
A report compiled for the Conservative backbench 1922 committee today described the Conservative headquarters as a “failing organisation.”
“In a failing organisation, which is beset by an atmosphere of crisis, it can be very difficult to talk truthfully about why things have gone wrong,” Tor MP Bernard Jenkin wrote.
“People within the organisation can feel very inhibited and fearful, particularly if there is an atmosphere of blame. Anyone who has worked in CCHQ during the past few months will recognise some or all of these characteristics.”
On why her campaign failed to deliver the result she wanted, the prime minister said: “I set out a year ago, when I stood on the steps here, the sort of vision I had. The sort of country I wanted us to be.
“I don’t think that vision came through sufficiently during the campaign. ‘Me’ was that speech on the steps of No 10 a year ago. That is what we were working on right up to the election, and it is what we are now working on.”
She added: “But that did not come across during the election campaign.
“And I don’t think we talked enough about what we had achieved in terms of the economy and jobs. We did not do enough not just on the positives of the economic record we had, but also the negatives of what Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto would mean for people.”
“I take responsibility. I called the election campaign and I led the campaign and I take responsibility for it.”
Asked if she considered stepping down immediately after election night, May said: “There were some pretty depressing moments when I was watching really good colleagues lose their seats on that Friday morning.
“But my view was that it was the largest party, it was our duty to form a government.
“You can walk away at these moments, but I think actually it is important to stand up to your responsibilities and accept that.”