Apologising for losing her Conservative Party’s majority at a June election, Prime Minister Theresa May responded to her critics on Sunday (October 1) by saying she had the right strategy to lead Britain and win a Brexit deal.
May, who has faced calls from within her party to step down, wants to use the Conservatives’ annual conference in the northern English city of Manchester this week to try to reset her agenda, offering money to students and those people she once described as “just about managing” in Britain.
In an interview with BBC television, she dismissed talk of rifts among top ministers, saying they were united on their programme and more importantly Brexit. That came a day after foreign minister Boris Johnson, perhaps May’s biggest rival, set out four personal red lines in the complex talks with the EU.
But with thousands of protesters demanding Britain stay in the European Union just outside the conference gates, May has a long way to go to unite not only her governing party, but also the country after last year’s divisive referendum vote.
“We’ve listened to the message that came from that (June) election. But I’ve been very clear, I called the election, I led the campaign, I take my responsibility and I’m sorry that some very good members of parliament lost their seats,” May said in an appeal to those party members still angry over the vote.
“What I have is a cabinet that is united in the mission of this government … and agreed on the approach that we took in Florence,” May said about a speech she made in Italy last month to try to kick-start Brexit talks that had all but stalled.
“Boris is absolutely behind the Florence speech and the line that we have taken.”
Divisions in her cabinet have broken out into the open, with ministers using the media to air their differences not only on Brexit, but also on the government’s approach to austerity – with many Conservatives concerned about the growing appeal of the main opposition Labour Party.