Boris's 'best hope of survival': Uniting Tories with the help of May and Cameron

7 June 2022, 19:05 | Updated: 7 June 2022, 19:11

By Megan Hinton

Boris Johnson's "best hope of survival as leader" is to reach out to Theresa May and "ask her back into Government", according to a former cabinet minister who served under her.

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Former cabinet office minister David Lidington - who effectively served as Theresa May's deputy prime minister, warned that Mr Johnson is "in real difficulties" after Monday's confidence vote, adding that he cannot see Mr Johnson remaining as the Tory party leader past 2023.

When questioned on Tonight with Andrew Marr about whether or not the PM could retain his position following his hollow confidence vote victory, Sir David replied: "I would say no, but I would also say, you know, Boris Johnson has been written off many times before… and once you're into 2023, you're getting so close to the next general election – or within a year, a year and a bit of it – I think it's then very difficult indeed for his opponents in the Conservative Party to move against him."

A total of 148 of 359 Conservative MPs said they do not have confidence in him as leader during last night's vote.

Sir David suggested that Mr Johnson should reach out to former Prime Ministers Theresa May and David Cameron "to help rebuild bridges and heal divisions in the Conservative Party" and potentially even ask Mrs May back into government.

Read more: Boris hints at tax cuts to woo Tory rebels and pleads move on from confidence vote

Theresa May also faced a confidence vote during her premiership in 2018
Theresa May also faced a confidence vote during her premiership in 2018. Picture: Alamy

Andrew Asked Sir David if Theresa May would return to frontline politics in a government led by Tory rebels or by Mr Johnson himself.

"I think she has more to offer in terms of public service and from what I know about Theresa, she's motivated very deeply by an ethic of public service that runs right through her career," Sir David said.

He added: "Agree with her or disagree with her, I think there's no doubt about the sincerity of that public service ethic derives from her Christian faith. So yeah, and I would say to the Prime Minister, if he were to ring me up, I would say the Conservative Party has always been at its best when it's been a broad church, which has, we've had people on the left, right and centre of the party, who have respected each other, had some different says but worked out a way forward together.

"And that's the way, I would hope, he will choose to lead the party. It's also my view, his best hope of survival as leader, in bringing the different wings of the party back together."

Sir David believes Boris Johnson should 'seek advice' from David Cameron on how to unite the Tory party
Sir David believes Boris Johnson should 'seek advice' from David Cameron on how to unite the Tory party. Picture: Alamy

"He should certainly be seeking to reach out in ways that are unexpected, and I have no idea whether she's interested in coming back into government – she hasn't said that to me one way or the other – but at the very least, I'd have thought the current Prime Minister should be speaking to Theresa May, to David Cameron, to people like William Hague, George Osborne, who held senior office in Conservative governments and seek their advice.

"But also reach out to other current MPs, and see whether he can find a way in which to rebuild bridges, and to heal divisions and actually bring the Conservative Party together as united force, because the Conservative Party divided and fractious is going to find it really difficult to win a further term in office."

Read more: Tory rebel would be 'very surprised' if Boris Johnson is still PM come autumn

Theresa May turned up in a ballgown to cast her vote last night, but would not reveal what was on her ballot slip.

The former Prime Minister also faced a confidence vote during her premiership in 2018 but received a greater percentage number of MPs supporting her.

Today Boris Johnson called for a "line to be drawn" under the bruising confidence vote as he gathered the Cabinet and demanded they work out ways of 'cutting costs' and delivering better value for money for the taxpayer.

Mr Johnson even hinted at tax cuts as he tries to get leadership of the party back on track.

In a policy blitz, he told the Cabinet "we will have the scope by delivering tax cuts," pledged action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, and laid out plans to help NHS services deal with backlogs.

He also signalled he wants to focus on his ‘levelling up’ agenda and clamp down on crime.

Mr Johnson told Cabinet: "We are able now to draw a line under the issues our opponents want to talk about and to get on and talk about what the people of this country want us to talk about."

The PM urged his senior ministers to move on and push the "massive agenda" of Levelling Up investment in the wake of the brutal confidence vote that saw more than 40 per cent of his MPs try to oust him.

He thanked them for their "hard work" in trying to save him from outright defeat yesterday.

But he demanded they come up with way of "cutting costs" in government and getting better value out of services.

Earlier the Prime Minister refused to quit Downing Street and has pledged "to deliver what people care about most" after a massive revolt by Tory MP's in a crunch confidence vote.