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'Dead woman walking': UK's Theresa May clings to power

Posted June 11

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was clinging to power by her fingernails on Sunday after losing her parliamentary majority in last Thursday's election, as an agreement with the minority Democratic Unionist Party that would keep the Conservatives in power was still not finalized.

May's co-chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, handed in their resignations on Saturday following the disastrous election, called by May to strengthen her position ahead of talks to leave the European Union, but which in the end left her weakened.

Late Saturday both Downing Street and the DUP issued statements saying talks over a deal to prop up the government would resume next week, amid concern among more liberal Conservatives about May hitching her wagon to the right-wing Northern Irish party. Earlier, Downing Street had said a preliminary agreement had already been secured.

The DUP is similar to the "religious right" in the US and takes a hard-line stance on social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

"Theresa May is a dead woman walking, it just remains to be seen how long she remains on death row," George Osborne, the former UK chancellor who was sacked by May last year, told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday.

The right-wing press Sunday speculated that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a former journalist and the former Mayor of London, was plotting a leadership coup.

But Osborne, who is now the editor of London's Evening Standard newspaper, downplayed the prospect. "He's in a permanent leadership campaign so I am not sure it qualifies as news," he said.

The new arithmetic of the House of Commons will also makes Brexit negotiations more difficult. The DUP, although it wants to leave the EU, will insist on keeping the single market that allows the free flow of goods across the UK's border with Ireland.

May called the vote three years earlier than required by law, with the aim of sweeping an even greater majority for her party before Brexit talks in just eight days to take the country out of the European Union.

But a dismal campaign has left the Prime Minister fending off a mutiny in her own party. Conservative MPs are publicly airing their anger, some calling for her ouster and others demanding radical change in her style of leadership.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, told the BBC she had words with May over the DUP's record on LGBT rights.

"I asked for a categoric assurance that if any deal or scoping deal was done with the DUP there would be absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK, in Great Britain, and that we would use any influence that we had to advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland," said the MP, who is a lesbian.

"It's an issue very close to my heart and one that I wanted categoric assurances from the Prime Minister on, and I received [them]."

Pressure is now also coming from the public. A petition on Change.org had more than half a million signatures by Saturday afternoon, calling for May's resignation over her alliance with the DUP.

There have been few clues as to how May might shake up her administration, but the Prime Minister, who campaigned under the mantra "strong and stable," announced that she would retain five key Cabinet ministers in their posts.

May's new chief of staff will be Gavin Barwell, a former MP who was ousted from his south London constituency as a result of Labour's unexpectedly strong showing in the election. The prime minister said that he would bring "considerable experience" to the post.

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