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by Liz Bates
25 October 2018
Theresa May makes peace with backbench Tories with 'emotional' Brexit plea

Theresa May - FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/PA

Theresa May makes peace with backbench Tories with 'emotional' Brexit plea

Last night's cruch meeting with restive backbench MPs saw Theresa May make an “emotional” case for Brexit, according to reports.

The Prime Minister addressed a packed meeting of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs on Wednesday night - with some saying afterwards that “unity had broken out” despite expectations of a tense showdown.

May has faced heavy criticism from her own backbenchers over Brexit in recent months, and tonight's meeting had been seen as a key test of support from her Parliamentary troops.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, ex-Home Secretary Amber Rudd - a close political ally of the embattled PM - said May had “won the room” as she took questions from her party for almost an hour.

The former Cabinet minister said: "She was able to win the room and was able to deliver something quite personal and emotional about why she was committed to doing [Brexit], despite being quite frank about the difficulties that were still there."

Fellow Conservative backbencher Michael Fabricant meanwhile said the atmosphere had been less like the “lion’s den” some had predicted and more like "a petting zoo".

According to those present, there was also widespread condemnation of violent language used about the Prime Minister in this weekend's papers.

In comments that triggered a furious backlash, anonymous pro-Brexit MPs had warned the PM that tonight's meeting would be a "killing zone" and advised her to “bring her own noose” to the gathering.

But Fabricant said “lots of people” had described the remarks as “disgusting and misogynist”, while Rudd said they had made colleagues “uncomfortable”.

The pair also dismissed speculation that 1922 committee chair Graham Brady was close to receiving the 48 letters needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in Mrs May.

“Nobody knows apart from Graham Brady,” Fabricant said.

Other MPs present at the meeting reported that Eurosceptic Tories had confronted May over Brexit talks, with backbencher Edward Leigh apparently seeking “cast-iron guarantees about when are going to leave”.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s most memorable line of the evening had been, one backbencher said he couldn’t recall, adding: “She’s like my mother and my mother’s 95.”

But the better-than-expected meeting came as a new poll revealed plummeting confidence in May's ability to strike a "good" Brexit deal.

The Ipsos MORI survey for the Evening Standard found that just nineteen percent of those polled felt "confident Theresa May will get a good deal for Britain", down eleven points since last month.

Some 78 per cent of the 1,044 people quizzed said they felt May's bid would fail, up eight points in a month.

In a further blow for the embattled Prime Minister, just 34 per cent of Tory supporters believe she will strike a good deal for Britain, a sharp drop on the 45 per cent support she enjoyed in last month's survey.

Nicky Morgan, a leading pro-Remain Conservative MP, meanwhile told ITV's Peston that a leadership challenge to Mrs May was still likely in the next year.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had her full support, Morgan said: "She has absolutely for now, but I do think we will probably, in the course of the next 12 months, we will be looking for a new leader."

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