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Trigger leadership contest now, senior Tory urges Theresa May

Under pressure: Theresa May

A SENIOR Tory has urged Theresa May to trigger the leadership contest to replace her, with the party facing humiliation at the European elections.

Nigel Evans said she should fire the starting gun when she goes before the executive panel of the backbench 1922 committee on Thursday to discuss the timetable for her departure.

The Brexiteer, executive secretary of the committee chaired by Sir Graham Brady, said: ‘I would rather hope that she would say “Sir Graham, you might as well start the process”.’

He condemned talks with Labour and the prospect of a ‘Brexit in name only’, adding: ‘If she was the chief executive of a private company she would have been shown the door by now.

‘It is absolute contempt for the British people, what is going on.’

Ministerial aide Huw Merriman MP said the party was in for a ‘mauling’ in the European elections, as an opinion poll showed it in fifth place. And hardline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mrs May had lost the support of the grassroots in Tory associations.

‘Nobody is saying anything supportive of her or her policy,’ he said. ‘The majority of people in associations I’m addressing tell me they are voting for the Brexit Party.’

The YouGov poll for The Times put the Conservatives on ten per cent for the European elections, behind the Brexit Party on 34 per cent, Labour on 16 per cent, the Lib Dems on 15 per cent and the Greens on 11 per cent.

In a general election, the survey showed the Tories would be neck and neck with Labour on 24 per cent, with the Brexit Party on 18 per cent and Lib Dems on 16 per cent.

Michael Gove (above) yesterday indicated he could stand in the race to replace Mrs May. Asked if he would run, the environment secretary said he was concentrating on the talks with Labour but added: ‘It’s not a no.’

Mrs May has said she will resign if her Brexit deal gets through the Commons but now faces pressure to set a date.