Theresa May struck a defiant tone this afternoon in her first broadcast interview since her disastrous conference speech. Speaking to Iain Dale on LBC, the Prime Minister re-iterated her old claim that she still wishes to lead the party into the next election – even if the number of MPs in her party who support her wish is now in single figures:
ID: Is it still your intention to lead the Conservative party into the next election?
TM: Iain I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer has not changed, I can tell you that.
ID: I just wondered after the events of last week whether it might have changed.
TM: No, look I’m not a quitter and there’s a long term job to be done here and I still passionately believe in the message I set out on the steps of Downing Street when I first became Prime Minister.
Her comments will frustrate some MPs who hoped after the events of last week that she would set a date for her exit rather than claim she will fight on until 2022. However, they can take heart that she at least used less bold language this time around.
The moment that will cause May the most bother in tomorrow’s papers was not on her leadership but on the issue of Brexit. Dale asked May how she would vote if there was an EU referendum tomorrow. The Prime Minister’s fellow Remain-er Jeremy Hunt said last week that he would now vote Brexit. May, however, was less forthcoming. She complained that she would not answer hypotheticals before flustering her way through the question refusing to say three times whether she would now vote Leave:
— LBC (@LBC) October 10, 2017
TM: I voted Remain for good reasons at the time, but circumstances move on… You’re asking me to say how would I vote in a vote now against a different background, a different international background, a different economic background
ID: You can’t tell me that you would now vote Leave in a referendum?
TM: I… because… I think Iain I could sit here and I could say ‘oh I’d still vote Remain or I’d vote Leave’ just to give you an answer to that question. I’m being open and honest with you. What I did last time round was I looked at everything and came to a judgement and I’d do exactly the same this time round. But we’re not having another referendum.’
The problem is that by refusing to answer the question it sounded as though May had not changed her mind since the EU referendum. Her response seemed to imply that she isn’t 100pc sure Brexit is the right path. This will do little to appease Brexiteer MPs who are already growing frustrated following her comments yesterday on the continuation of the jurisdiction of the ECJ in a transition period. Oh to be a member of the Brexiteer MPs’ European Research Group WhatsApp thread tonight…