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Contenders vie to fill Theresa May’s shoes as Tories warned of death blow

Break: Mr and Mrs May attend a Palm Sunday service at St Mary’s Church in Dolgellau, north Wales PICTURE: ERFYL LLOYD DAVIES

THERESA MAY has been told she should quit next month — before her party faces a potential meltdown in the European elections.

The prime minister was urged to resign by former cabinet member Iain Duncan Smith as polls showed Tory support had slumped.

Only 17 per cent of voters will back the Conservatives — with Ukip and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party not far behind — if Britain takes part in the European elections on May 23, found Opinium.

And Labour would win most seats if a general election was held, according to a ‘poll of polls’ by Electoral Calculus for The Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Duncan Smith, one of Mrs May’s predecessors as Conservative leader, blamed the decision to put back the Brexit deadline until October 31.

‘Disaster’: Mr Duncan Smith tells Sophy Ridge his European election fears

He said the PM needed to get Britain out of the EU before the elections and then step down. ‘She said she would go as and when the EU withdrawal agreement was ratified, which was looking at around about May, June — I think those dates still stand,’ he told Sky News show Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

‘I think that what the PM has to do is aim everything now towards departure before the Euros which would then allow her to step away, having done what she said she would do, getting the UK out of the EU one way or the other.

‘Then we can have another leadership election and pick a new leader, which is the way it has to be.’

The Brexiteer said taking part in the elections — with candidates knowing they might never take their seats — would be a disaster for the country and ‘political death’ for the Tories.

He added: ‘The big problem was as soon as we didn’t leave you could see all the poll ratings start to crash. It’s wholly linked to the fact that they were all expecting us to go and, when we didn’t go, it looked like a complete breach with the pledge we had made.’

Labour would fall short of a majority in a general election but would win 296 seats to the Tories’ 259, shows the poll of polls, based on questioning of more than 8,500 people.

The European elections survey puts Labour in the lead on 29 per cent, with Ukip on 13 per cent and the Brexit Party on 12 per cent. The Lib Dems are backed by ten per cent of voters, the Greens are on six per cent and pro-EU party Change UK are on four per cent.

The 17 per cent forecast for the Tories would be their worst ever performance in the elections, lower than the 23 per cent recorded in 2014.

The call from Mr Duncan Smith for Mrs May to resign came as a potential contender to be the next Conservative leader appeared to set out his stall. Ex-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab wrote an article in The Sunday Telegraph calling for tax cuts to help first-time buyers.

Chief Treasury secretary Liz Truss has made a similar pitch, saying the Tories need to appeal more to younger voters. And foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is leading the pack after securing more than 70 backers among his fellow MPs, it was reported yesterday.

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: ‘At this time of national crisis, people are demanding real leadership — however, the Tories only offer internal party plotting.’ Keen walker Mrs May, who snatched a quick break in north Wales with husband Philip at the weekend, has failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament.

Her promise to step down if it was passed was made in the hope of persuading rebel Tories to back her in the most recent of the votes last month — but she still lost by 344 to 286.