'No appetite for leader contest'
‘Contrite’ May to meet DUP as she clings to power
Theresa May will meet Democratic Unionist Party leaders in Downing Street today as she battles to stay in Downing Street and regain the faith of her party.
DUP Leader Arlene Foster said on Monday that the first round of discussions had been “positive” and that she was keen to support the “national interest”.
A contrite Mrs May met her own MPs yesterday and said the DUP would not get a veto on key policies, assuring sceptics who feel there are too many differences between the parties for any agreement to hold.
The Conservative Party needs the DUP’s 10 seats to be able to govern after it failed to secure an absolute majority on Thursday.
Ms Foster said: “We’ve had a positive engagement with the Conservative Party, those discussions continue.”
She declined to say what she was asking for in exchange for supporting the Conservative Party, though there has been speculation that she will extract greater funding for the province and further concessions on a Brexit deal.
Mrs May arrived for her meeting with the backbench 1922 Committee of Tory MPs fearing a backlash over the general election debacle.
However the Tory MPs banged their desks and cheered as she entered the room in line with tradition.
Mrs May said: “I got us into this mess, I’m going to get us out of it.”
She was said to have impressed MPs with a humble acceptance of her part in the loss of the party’s majority. Former Chancellor George Osborne described her on Sunday as “a dead woman walking”, but after yesterday’s meeting the view of MPs was that there was no appetite for a leadership contest.
Vowing to battle on, she told the meeting: “I will serve as long as you want me to.”
Mrs May told the meeting that she understood “what went right and what went wrong” with the party’s election campaign.
One was quoted saying: “She was contrite. She spoke about speaking to colleagues who have lost their seats and putting in place some form of help for them. The mood was that there’s no leadership contest – she spoke very well.”
Another MP said: “We’re not having a leadership election any time soon.”
Conservative chief whip Gavin Williamson flew to Belfast on Saturday to begin formal discussions with the DUP after the election resulted in a hung parliament.
Details of a so-called “confidence and supply arrangement” in which the DUP will guarantee their backing for the Queen’s Speech and future government Budgets are expected to be agreed in the coming days.
There is a particular focus on the Brexit talks beginning next week. Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland is a key point for debate.
There has been uncertainty as to whether any deal will be agreed in time to allow the Queen’s Speech to take place as planned next Monday.
In a worrying sign that a Tory-DUP deal could undermine the Good Friday agreement Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has warned that no arrangement between the Conservatives and the DUP would be good for Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has said the negotiations are “entirely separate from our intent and desire to see devolution restored here.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson attended a meeting of the cabinet and in a private meeting she urged Mrs May to “reach out to others” on issues such as Brexit.
Ms Davidson believes the 13 Scottish Tory MPs can play an influential part in helping shape the party’s UK policy, not least its role in constitutional matters.
She has also called for an “open Brexit”, which prioritises free trade and the country’s economic interests over curbing immigration.
She echoed SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s call for cross-party cooperation on Brexit, telling the Prime Minister the UK’s exit from the EU cannot be secured on the Conservatives’ terms alone.
However, Downing Street said “there has been no change” to plans to quit the European single market and customs union.
Ms Sturgeon said a so-called Hard Brexit was “dead in the water”.