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Theresa May's top advisers resign after UK election shock

Posted June 10

British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have begun a purge in her party after shock election results stripped the Conservatives of their commanding majority in Parliament.

Her co-chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill announced their resignations Saturday. Timothy conceded in a statement that he had failed to carry out an effective election campaign, while the British Press Agency reported Hill was stepping down.

May suffered a humiliating blow as the "snap election" Thursday spectacularly backfired. She had 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 nine days to take the country out of the European Union.

May is now trying to stitch together a credible government this weekend as members in her own party have publicly aired their anger, some calling for her ouster and others demanding radical change in her leadership style.

Several MPs have said they were against several key points in the Conservatives' manifesto, the document that outlined the party's agenda.

MP says manifesto was 'arsenic'

Nigel Evans was among several Conservative MPs to call for Timothy's resignation, and said "anyone with their fingers" on the document should resign.

"It was absolute arsenic from beginning to end," Evans told CNN on Saturday.

While Evans is not among MPs calling for May to resign, he slammed her style of governance as tone deaf to her own Cabinet ministers and MPs, who he said were better in touch with voters on the ground.

He said the party's commanding lead in the polls of 20 percentage points dramatically narrowed after the launch of the Conservatives' manifesto, which he said was "mean-spirited" in its call for a cut funding for children's school lunches and to charge the elderly more for their own care.

"The campaign was going well until the manifesto was launched. Of course, the core message was all lost because of the cacophony of noise we were making about social care, and so we were having to fight fires that we created ourselves rather than exposing the Labour Party's insane manifesto."

Timothy said Sunday that the election result was "a huge disappointment."

"I take responsibility for my part in this election campaign, which was the oversight of our policy program," he said.

Though he defended himself on the issue of elderly care, saying it was "the subject of many months of work" among many people in the party.

"I want to place on record my sorrow for the Conservative Members of Parliament who lost their seats, several of whom are close friends."

Backlash over controversial alliance

May is now looking to rule the country with less than 50% of seats in Parliament's House of Commons, and is banking on support from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to be the ally that helps her party push its agenda through Parliament.

That decision too, which has not yet been formalized, has triggered criticism in the media and amongst members of May's party, who have described the DUP as anti-abortionist and regressive on LGBTI rights.

Ruth Davidson, a Conservative 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]."

May, who campaigned under the mantra "strong and stable," announced Friday that she would retain five key Cabinet ministers in their posts.

May came under fire during the campaign for the controversial policy on the cost of care for the elderly, dubbed the "dementia tax," and for making several U-turns on social care. She was criticized for refusing to take part in a televised leaders' debate and for carefully controlling her campaign activities to keep the public at arm's length.

She was forced to apologize Friday after she refused to acknowledge her party's battering in her initial post-election remarks.

The British media has been scathing of May. The Times newspaper ran a front-page story on May's tenuous future as Conservative leader Saturday with the headline "May stares into the abyss."

The Daily Mirror tabloid's cover read "Coalition of Crackpots," playing on the term "Coalition of Chaos" that May had used to describe the opposition parties. And the Sun tabloid led with "She's had her chips," pointing to a campaign moment of May awkwardly eating fries, while implying she was on the way out.

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