'Dead woman walking': Weakened PM May hangs on

'Dead woman walking': Weakened PM May hangs on

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media outside her official home at 10 Downing Street. (EPA photo)
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media outside her official home at 10 Downing Street. (EPA photo)

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May's weakness was underlined on Sunday as she announced limited changes to her cabinet before a showdown with her Conservative Party's lawmakers on Monday.

The premier was unable to carry out the wholesale changes to her government about which there was speculation ahead of Thursday's election after losing her majority in the House of Commons. The only major change was the promotion of her close friend and ally Damian Green, previously the work and pensions secretary, to first secretary of state, making him officially her second in command.

May will address the 1922 Committee of rank-and-file Tory lawmakers on Monday in a meeting that will test her chances of staying in office. Many are angry with her for calling the snap election and running such a catastrophic campaign after being 20 percentage points ahead in the polls two months ago.

The announcements of cabinet reappointments followed a night of chaos over her bid for an agreement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to support her government. Her office was forced to admit it hadn't achieved a final deal just hours after announcing that it had.

May will meet with DUP leader Arlene Foster in London on Tuesday as she seeks to secure the support of the party's 10 lawmakers for her programme, making up for the Tories' nine-seat shortfall in the Commons. The Conservatives will be unable to pass controversial legislation without the DUP, the only minor party willing to countenance backing May.

Saturday's confusion saw May's two chiefs of staff quit and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson describing a Mail on Sunday newspaper report that he was preparing to mount a coup against her as "tripe."

While the prime minister fought to win the support she needs to stay in power, she still told German Chancellor Angela Merkel she plans to start Brexit talks on schedule in a couple of weeks.

'Death Row'

"Theresa May is a dead woman walking," George Osborne, whom May fired as chancellor of the exchequer last year and now edits London's Evening Standard newspaper, told BBC Television on Sunday. "It's just how long she's going to remain on death row."

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, boosted by his unexpectedly good election performance, told the BBC he will put forward an alternative programme for government and invite lawmakers to vote for it in place of May's.

"I think it's quite possible there'll be an election later this year or early next year, and that might be a good thing because we cannot go on with a period of great instability," he told the BBC. "We have a program, we have support and we're ready to fight another election campaign."

Cabinet Changes

May started making appointments to her cabinet on Sunday afternoon -- announced in a series of emailed statements -- as a parade of ministers walked past cameras and reporters to meetings in her Downing Street office. Green's appointment as first secretary of state -- an office not included in every cabinet -- was the biggest change. The previous first secretary was Osborne when he served in David Cameron's government from 2015 to 2016.

David Gauke, formerly the chief secretary to the Treasury, will replace Green as secretary of state for work and pensions. Greg Clark was reappointed as business secretary.

Liz Truss, who was justice secretary before Thursday's vote, was demoted to chief secretary to the Treasury. The role will see Truss "attending cabinet" rather than holding a full cabinet post. Former Europe Minister David Lidington succeeds Truss at the Justice department.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, one of the five most senior ministers already reconfirmed in their posts Friday, said May is going to change her style to reflect the fact that she has to govern without a majority. "She absolutely understands that a minority government will require a different approach, a more collective approach," he told the BBC.

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