THERESA May’s leadership is already “over,” a senior UK Government minister has claimed, as George Osborne, the former Chancellor, branded her a “lame duck” Prime Minister.

The minister told The Herald that while the party leader might seek to tough it out after what is expected to be another humiliating result at the May 23 European elections, her colleagues in Cabinet will act swiftly.

“It’s over,” he declared. “The cross-party talks are going nowhere and we’re heading for another bad result in the May 23 European elections. She might try to carry on but her Cabinet colleagues will not allow it.”

Mr Osborne, who now edits the London Evening Standard, urged the contenders lining up for the Tory succession to act, saying: "Fortune favours the brave in these leadership contests."

He told Sky News: “Eventually, the party has to confront the truth, which is that it needs a new leader, it needs a new agenda, it needs to win over supporters who have disappeared from it and it needs to make an appeal to the urban, metropolitan Britain that has currently turned its back on Conservatism.

"If that continues to be the trend, then there won't be a Conservative Government for much longer."

Yet despite the mounting pressure, No 10 made clear the PM intended to tough it out.

"She is here to deliver Brexit in Phase One and then she will leave and make way for new leadership in Phase Two. That is timetable she is working for: she wants to get Brexit done," declared her spokesman.

Following a meeting with the PM earlier this week, Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, let slip that Mrs May intended to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill "sooner rather than later" and "before the European elections". This could mean as early as next week.

David Lidington, the PM’s de facto deputy, made clear on Wednesday that the Government was now looking to a possible new Brexit deadline of mid-July, saying it hoped to get a deal “done and dusted by the summer recess”.

However, present and former Cabinet colleagues are already “on manoeuvres”.

At the weekend, there were articles about leading contenders Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab, setting out their visions for the party and the country. Rory Stewart, the new International Development Secretary, announced he would throw his hat in the ring while Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, said yesterday she was “seriously considering” entering the contest.

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is today giving a speech, which is being seen as a leadership pitch, while tomorrow night, Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, is due in Aberdeen to give a speech to local Tories when he will play the Unionist card, talking up his credentials as a One Nation Conservative.

Party sources have suggested the Scottish Tory MPs are mainly minded to throw their support behind their Scottish colleague Michael Gove, the Brexit-supporting Environment Secretary, who, it is claimed, has already got nigh on 60 supporters.

While there was no definitive conclusion to the meeting of the Conservatives’ 1922 backbench committee last night, Sir Graham announced the PM would meet the committee’s executive next week.

He declined to tell waiting journalists whether Mrs May’s timetable for departure would be discussed but the belief is it will be top of the agenda.

As several MPs left the 1922 meeting grim-faced, Brexiteer MP Nadine Dorries expressed her own impatience, saying: “She's not given any decision, there's no timetable and they need to get on with it. We need to make sure we get that final decision soon because everybody needs it."

Earlier, the tensions within the Tory Party spilled over publicly at PMQs when Brexiteer Andrea Jenkins suggested to her leader’s face that she should go.

Declaring how the PM had “tried her best,” and that no one could fault or doubt her commitment and sense of duty, Ms Jenkins nonetheless insisted Mrs May had failed.

“She has failed to deliver on her promises. We have lost 1,300 hard-working councillors and, sadly, the public no longer trust her to run the Brexit negotiations. Is it not time to step aside and let someone new lead our party, our country and the negotiations?”

The PM said she was sorry so many good Tory councillors had lost their roles following the party’s disastrous showing last week but told her colleague: “This is not an issue about me, and it is not an issue about her. If it were an issue about me and how I vote, we would already have left the European Union.”

In other developments -

*Jeremy Corbyn today launches Labour’s European elections campaign in Kent with the party’s manifesto, that sets out plans to “work across borders to take on tax dodgers, polluters and migrant baiters of the Far Right”.

*The SNP’s Ian Blackford told MPs at PMQs: "Scotland doesn't want a Labour-Tory Brexit stitch-up. Scotland voted to remain and, once again, with no Scottish representation in the talks, our nation is being ignored.”

*Trade Secretary Liam Fox said a customs union would be “bad for Britain” and leave access to the UK’s markets as a “commodity” to be traded by Brussels in any of the EU’s future trade deals.

*Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, urged the UK Government to resolve the Brexit impasse to push ahead with a US-UK trade deal, stressing how President Donald Trump was "eager" to sign a post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain.

*A new deal preserving the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland after Brexit has been signed, enabling citizens of both countries to cross the Irish border and move freely between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. It also allows cross-border access to education and healthcare.

*Some 131,000 applications to register to vote in the May 23 Euro poll were submitted on Tuesday as people made a last-minute rush to meet the participation deadline.