FORMER chief whip Andrew Mitchell tried yesterday to play down a report that he had described Theresa May as “dead in the water,” while a Cabinet minister attributed it to prosecco bubbles going to Tories’ heads.
Mr Mitchell is claimed to have told a private dinner attended by Conservative MPs that the Prime Minister has “lost her authority” and is “weak.”
However, he insisted that this account of his comments to the One Nation Commons dining club was “overheated.”
Mr Mitchell is alleged to have made the comments on June 26, the day Ms May struck a desperate deal with the Democratic Unionist Party costing £1 billion to prop up her minority government after she lost 13 seats in the June 6 snap election that she had called in the expectation of winning a landslide.
A Conservative MP present at the gathering told the Mail on Sunday: “Mr Mitchell effectively said she was dead in the water. “He said she was weak, had lost her authority, couldn’t go on and we needed a new leader. Some of us were very surprised and disagreed with him.”
Justice Secretary David Lidington blamed the gossip on Tory MPs drinking “too much warm prosecco.”
Hey told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think the summer parties is the key to this.
“I have been in Parliament 25 years and almost every July a combination of too much sun and too much warm prosecco leads to gossipy stories in the media.”
Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah told BBC Radio Five Live’s Pienaar’s Politics said that MPs are “gassing off to journalists” because they are humiliated and angered at getting “a bloody nose” from the voters.
Mr Mitchell, a former international development secretary, is a close ally of Brexit Secretary David Davis, who is seen as a potential successor to Ms May.
He ran Mr Davis’s 2005 leadership bid.
Mr Davis, speaking the day before the dinner, publicly predicted that a Tory leadership contest would be “catastrophic.”
But the Sunday Times quoted an anonymous “close ally” of his as saying that Ms May should use the Tory conference speech in October to set a date for her departure.