Theresa May to finalise top team after election upset

Updated: 

Theresa May was set to name the rest of her top team on Saturday after a humiliating showing in the general election left her authority as Prime Minister weakened.

Mrs May had limited room for manoeuvre after her presidential-style campaign saw the Tories shed seats and fall eight MPs short of a Commons majority.

After speculation the PM would use a solid win in the election to move Philip Hammond from the Treasury, he and other potential successors as Tory leader, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, remained in place.

With Brexit Secretary David Davis and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon also staying put, there were suggestions changes could just centre on replacing the eight ministers who lost their seats as the Tory Commons tally fell to 318.

Mrs May's decision to seek a deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the role of her two closest advisers in the faltering election campaign drew criticism in Tory ranks.

In an apparent side-swipe at a hook-up with the DUP, a party which strongly opposes marriage equality, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted a link to a speech she made in Belfast in support of same-sex marriage.

Ms Davidson, who became engaged to partner Jen Wilson in May 2016, later said she had received assurances from the PM over gay rights. 

She told the BBC: "I was fairly straightforward with her (Mrs May) and I told her that there were a number of things that count to me more than the party.

"One of them is country, one of the others is LGBTI rights.

"I asked for a categoric assurance that if any deal or scoping deal was done with the DUP there would be absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK, in Great Britain, and that we would use any influence that we had to advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland."

With talks between the Tories and the DUP expected to begin within days, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey expressed concern about the impact of any deal on the peace process.

He told BBC Newsnight: "I think this current arrangement may well prove to be reckless, but we will have to wait and see.

"We will expect the British Government to honour their commitments in respect of the Good Friday Agreement. And that means they have to remain neutral. We will watch what's happening very carefully." 

Former minister Anna Soubry called on Mrs May to sack her joint chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, after she complained about their central roles in the campaign.

Amid reports that senior Tories were sounding out potential replacements for Mrs May, prominent Conservative MP Heidi Allen said the Prime Minister had six months at most left in Downing Street.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sprang to Mrs May's defence, insisting she needed to stay in office for the national interest.

He told BBC Question Time: "Not only must she not resign, she has to not resign in the interest of the country because we need to move forward, we have got to go into the Brexit negotiations."

Asked if Mrs May should lead the Tories into the next election, Mr Grayling said: "The next election is a question for her. My view is we need her to stay as Prime Minister and stay as Prime Minister for the foreseeable future."

Pressed that Mrs May now had no mandate for her Brexit vision, Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Newsnight: "You're absolutely right and to pretend otherwise would be insulting your viewers. But she is also a democrat. She will accept the outcome of this election. We are the largest party, we can govern."

A strong showing for Labour in the election was capped when the party snatched the final seat to declare, Kensington, by just 20 votes.

The win took Labour's tally to 262 MPs as Jeremy Corbyn's party soared to a 40% share of the popular vote.

Mr Corbyn called on Mrs May to stand aside and let Labour form a minority administration in light of the election results.

The Liberal Democrats gained four seats to stand at 12 MPs, but saw former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg ousted from the Commons.

The SNP saw its tally fall from the 56 seats it secured two years ago to 35, while Ukip leader Paul Nuttall quit after a disastrous showing for the party.