Theresa May will appeal to her MPs to throw their weight behind her at a crunch meeting on Monday, as her future hangs in the balance after the Conservatives’ majority was wiped out in Thursday’s general election.
The prime minister is expected to signal to her parliamentary colleagues that she will run her government in a more collegiate, less controlling way, after sacrificing her two closest advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.
May carried out a modest reshuffle of her top team on Sunday as speculation continued to swirl about her future, including bringing back Michael Gove into government as environment secretary, replacing Andrea Leadsom. Gove crashed out of the cabinet last year after challenging May for the Conservative leadership, stymying Boris Johnson’s chances in the process.
With many backbenchers blaming May for the party’s poor performance at the polls, one senior Conservative said she would have to give a “barnstorming” performance at the meeting of the party’s 1922 committee of MPs to hold on to her job.
George Osborne, who was sacked by May as chancellor last year, described her as a “dead woman walking”, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “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.”
Jeremy Corbyn has delayed any reshuffle of his own frontbench team as the party focuses on maximising pressure on the Tories and drafting potential amendments to the government’s Queen’s speech, which is due to be delivered on 19 June.
If she survives, May is likely to have to ditch controversial manifesto policies in order to secure the backing of the House of Commons, and present a stripped-down programme for government, focusing on implementing Brexit and avoiding potential flashpoints.
Financial markets will reopen on Monday morning amid continued uncertainty about whether May can command the loyalty of her own backbenchers, and push key legislation through the House of Commons.
As part of her reshuffle, Damian Green, a longstanding ally who campaigned for remain in last year’s referendum, will be first secretary of state – effectively her deputy.