Prime minister Theresa May’s two closest advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned today after taking responsibility for the poll debacle for the Conservative Party which lost its majority in the House of Commons.
Timothy and Hill, considered part of May’s inner circle of confidants as her joint chiefs of staff, quit their Downing Street top jobs after coming under fire as the duo responsible for convincing May to call a snap general election with claims that she was assured a landslide victory.
According to reports, May had been given an ultimatum by her own Conservative party colleagues that the pair had to go if she wanted to avert a leadership challenge on Monday.
The duo are widely credited with running May’s election campaign, which focused attention entirely on May rather than the Cabinet, a move that clearly did not pan out well as the Tories ended up losing their majority in the House of Commons and winning just 318 seats, well short of the 326 overall majority and forced to form a minority government with the support of Northern Ireland’s regional Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Timothy accepted responsibility for his role in the Conservative party manifesto, criticised by many party MPs for its policies on social care and pension, which are believed to have cost heavily in the polls.
In a statement confirming his departure, Timothy said: “Clearly, the general election result was a huge disappointment. I take responsibility for my part in this election campaign.
“In particular, I regret the decision not to include in the manifesto a ceiling as well as a floor in our proposal to help meet the increasing cost of social care.
“But I would like to make clear that the bizarre media reports about my own role in the policy s inclusion are wrong: it had been the subject of many months of work within Whitehall, and it was not my personal pet project.”
He also claimed that the Conservative party failed to notice the surge in Labour party support during the campaign.
Hill’s departure was announced soon after by a Conservative party spokesperson as the news of Timothy’s resignation went public.
The twin departures will ease some of the pressure on May, who was accused of ignoring party colleagues and taking unilateral decisions based on advice from her joint chiefs of staff, dubbed “toxic” by some Tories.
Katie Perrior, a former director of communications at No 10 Downing Street, said she respected May but her office was “pretty dysfunctional” with Timothy and Hill being accused of bullying behaviour.
Writing in the Times, she said: “What I could never work out was whether May condoned their behaviour and turned a blind eye or didn’t understand how destructive they both were.
“For all the love of a hierarchy, the chiefs treated cabinet members exactly the same rude, abusive, childish behaviour.
“For two people who have never achieved elected office, I was staggered at the disrespect they showed on a daily basis.
“I never hated them. I felt sorry for them and how they measured success by how many enemies they had clocked up.”
May has said she intends to stay as prime minister despite failing to win a Conservative majority in the election.