LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to relinquish her two closest aides on Saturday as she struggled to reassert her authority following a crushing electoral setback.
The Conservative leader has been warned her days are numbered after calling Thursday´s vote three years early, only to lose her majority in parliament.
Senior party figures have cautioned against any immediate leadership challenge, saying it would only cause further disruption as Britain prepares to start Brexit negotiations as early as June 19.
But reports suggest they demanded the departure of May´s joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, as the price for allowing the 60-year-old vicar´s daughter to stay in office.
May announced Friday she would seek to form a minority government with the help of a small Northern Irish party, the far-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
She put on a brave face, refusing to show any contrition for the election gamble that spectacularly backfired, but observers say she has been deeply wounded.
“From hubris to humiliation,” said the left-leaning Guardian. “May stares into the abyss,” wrote The Times, while Conservative-supporting The Sun tabloid said succinctly: “She´s had her chips.”
May had relied on Timothy and Hill for advice and support since her previous job at the interior ministry, and their resignations will be a personal blow.
Timothy said he took responsibility for the Conservative manifesto, including a plan for elderly social care that caused a backlash among many core voters.
A party spokesman confirmed the resignation of Hill, a combative character who one ex-colleague said had helped create a “toxic” atmosphere at the heart of government.
The news came as May prepared to name the rest of her cabinet, after revealing Friday that her five most senior ministers would remain in their posts.