WATCH: Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt backs Theresa May despite nightmare' conference speech

Portsmouth's Tory MP has backed prime minister Theresa May in the wake of her problem-strewn speech to the Conservative Part conference.

Thursday, 5th October 2017, 9:28 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 5:17 pm
Lee Evans hands Theresa May a fake P45

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) said in a tweet: 'Quite unintentionally the PM is demonstrating that she's got the balls, stamina, SOH (sense of humour) and warmth for the task ahead. Speech not needed!'

She voiced her views as cabinet ministers called Theresa May to offer their support amid suggestions that MPs are posing fresh questions about her leadership after her nightmare speech to the Conservative Party conference.

It is understood the Prime Minister is not preparing to resign and that ministers called her to offer their backing following the luckless address in Manchester.

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Lee Evans hands Theresa May a fake P45

But backbench Tory MP Mark Pritchard suggested a "small number" of colleagues were raising questions over her leadership in text messages and warned them "there is no vacancy at Number 10".

Mrs May's speech was marred by a series of unfortunate events, including a stage invader handing her a P45 unemployment notice, a cough repeatedly bringing her oration to a halt, and letters falling off the party slogan on the backdrop behind her.

The address was billed in some quarters as potentially make or break for her premiership following the botched snap election in which the Tories lost their majority.

But announcements including a £2 billion to boost council home building and a new law to cap energy prices to help voters "left behind" by an unbalanced economy were overshadowed by the plague of mishaps and interruptions.

Lee Evans hands Theresa May a fake P45

It is not known whether Boris Johnson, who has been the subject of fevered leadership speculation amid his perceived disloyalty on Brexit in recent weeks, was one of the ministers who called the PM.

One Tory MP claimed the Foreign Secretary's allies had "magnified" their soundings out of support among colleagues.

But following the speech, Mr Johnson tweeted: "Great job by the PM today putting housing at the heart of renewing the British dream."

Meanwhile, Mr Pritchard warned colleagues away from a leadership challenge, tweeting: "For small number of MPs texting MPs asking what we thought of PM's speech (or circling above) one message: there is no vacancy at Number 10!"

And business minister Margot James blamed "embittered" ex-ministers for any plotting against Mrs May.

"That sort of thing is rife in politics," she told BBC Newsnight.

"There are some ex-cabinet ministers or ex-ministers who are extremely embittered individuals who just want to get their own back on the fact that they don't feel recognised."

Referencing the furore over Mr Johnson, prankster Lee Nelson, a comedian, claimed the Foreign Secretary had told him to give Mrs May her P45, as he was bundled away by security and arrested by police to prevent a breach of the peace.

His stunt raised questions about the PM's security after it emerged he had attended the conference with legitimate accreditation, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would look "carefully" at the incident to prevent it happening again.

Downing Street sources insisted that Mrs May was "happy" with how the speech had gone, blaming a "conference cold" and the combined effect of 28 broadcast interviews and 19 receptions for the croaky voice which repeatedly forced her to stop.

After she had finished, she tweeted a photo of a range of throat medications next to a copy of her speech, with the single-word comment "*coughs*".

But her occasionally highly personal speech seeking to offer voters a "British dream" capped off a Tory conference noted for its lack of attendees and during which Mr Johnson continued to court controversy.

The PM will remain under pressure to sack her Foreign Secretary after he sparked outrage on Tuesday evening by telling a meeting on the fringe of the conference that the Libyan city of Sirte could be like Dubai if the locals could "clear the dead bodies away".

The Tories also came in for criticism from musicians Calvin Harris and Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, who said they did not approve or support the party playing their songs at the conference.