SPECULATION over potential challenges to David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservatives swirled over the weekend, as a poll suggested the party is currently on track to lose 93 seats to Labour.
Some backbench MPs suggest the Prime Minister could face a coup if next week’s Budget fails to impress and the party suffers heavy defeats in upcoming local elections.
Home Secretary Theresa May fired up speculation that she wants the top job by setting out her vision for a 2015 general election victory to party activists. Her speech proposed a return to more traditional values focussed on what she called the “three pillars of Conservatism” – namely security, freedom and opportunity – and said the party must work to lose its elitist image.
“We have to become the party that is tireless in confronting vested interests. The party that takes power from the elites and gives it to the people,” she told a conference organised by the website ConservativeHome on Saturday.
She also said a Conservative majority government would seek to repeal the Human Rights Act and suggested the UK could leave the European Court of Human Rights altogether, policies that would please grassroots supporters.
May, who has struggled in her ministerial role to deport the radical preacher Abu Qatada, said “we need to stop human rights legislation interfering with our ability to fight crime and control immigration”.
Other potential leadership candidates include defence secretary Philip Hammond, justice secretary Chris Grayling, and backbencher Adam Afriyie.
Meanwhile a poll of 19,000 people in marginal seats by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggests that if a general election were held tomorrow Labour would win a majority of 84.
However Ashcroft warns that the race will tighten as polling day approaches and Labour is still struggling to win back voters in London and suburban seats in the south of England. The poll also suggests the Tories could gain 17 seats from the Lib Dems in England and Wales.