THERESA May says he is providing “calm leadership” and has the “full support” of her Cabinet to stay on as Prime Minister.
It comes after a plot to remove her following her gaffe-filled conference speech was revealed last night – with ex-minister Grant Shapps as its ringleader.
Speaking as she attended a charity coffee morning in her constituency today she said: “I’ve had a cold all this week but I’m here today at a fantastic event that is raising money to support people and their families who are going through real difficulty.
“What the country needs is calm leadership, and that’s what I’m providing with the full support of my Cabinet.”
Her defiant statement comes after a new poll out this morning revealed support for her party has actually gone up this week – despite the disastrous end to the party’s annual gathering in Manchester .
YouGov are reporting that the Conservatives on 40 per cent – up one point since a fortnight ago – while Labour are on 42 per cent – down a percentage point.
Next week the PM will attempt to get back to normality, holding a major meeting with business leaders and hosting a phone-in on radio station LBC.
The former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps had claimed he has the support of “one or two” Cabinet ministers in his plot to bring down the PM.
But his plan, which he said was outed by Number 10 against his wishes yesterday, has been rubbished by a number of leading party figures.
Many have claimed he doesn’t have the support of the 30 MPs he claims he does, while others say the plot is a product of his bitterness at being kept out of Government.
And he has been lampooned as a “used car salesman” who “speaks for no one”.
But the 49-year-old rejected this, saying: “A growing number of number of my colleagues, we realise that the solution isn’t to bury our heads in the sand and just hope things will get better.
“It never worked out for Brown or Major and I don’t think it is going to work out here either.”
He was briefing last night he had the support of five former Cabinet ministers – but this morning he went further – telling Sky News “one or two” current Cabinet members “privately agree” Mrs May has to go.
But speaking on the Today programme a member of Mrs May’s top team rubbished that claim.
How to ditch a Tory Prime Minister
Tory rebels need the support of 48 MPs in order to trigger a formal leadership contest.
The party’s rules state that if 15 per cent of Conservative MPs write to the chief backbencher, the leader faces a vote of confidence.
There are currently 316 Tories in the Commons, meaning that the threshold for a contest is 48.
Any vote of confidence would be overseen by Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee.
The last time rebel MPs managed to trigger such a vote was in 2003, when Iain Duncan Smith was toppled.
If Theresa May did lose a vote of her own MPs, a full leadership contest would start.
The first round of the leadership election would see MPs whittle down the number of candidates to two, with ordinary party members voting on which of the final pair they want to be leader.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he doesn’t “know a single Cabinet member” who wants to see her go, and calling leadership speculation “boring”.
He said: “The Prime Minister has been doing a fantastic job.
“She showed an amazing degree of resilience and courage this week, of a piece with the fantastic leadership she has shown through the time that she has been Prime Minister.”
And Charles Walker, vice chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said it was clear that the rebels lacked the support to force out the Prime Minister.
He told the BBC: “Number 10 must be delighted to learn that it is Grant Shapps leading this alleged coup.
“Grant has many talents but the one thing he doesn’t have is a following in the party. I really think this is now just going to fizzle out.
“What you are seeing here is probably a coalition of disappointed people who think their brilliant talents have not been fully recognised.”
Mr Shapps has also has been accused of being behind a “bitter” revenge plot after Mrs May booted several other ministers out of Government after she won power last summer.
Business minister Margot James said: “There are some ex-Cabinet ministers and ministers who are extremely embittered individuals who just want to get their own back for the fact that they don’t feel recognised.”
And fellow Tory Mark Pritchard said: “Attempts to drum up a delegation of 30 MPs to try and force the PM out will fail.
“They are also cowardly. If any MPs want her out, there is a process.”
Senior backbencher Nigel Evans said of the plot: “There is only one direction that the Shapps bandwagon is going to roll…and that is over him.”
Rob Semple, chairman of the National Conservative Convention which represents grassroots activists, also gave his support to the Prime Minister.
He said: “It is clear to me from the meetings I have attended around the country, and most recently the hundreds of conversations I had with members at our conference in Manchester, that party members are united behind Theresa May’s leadership.
“That support was clearly demonstrated during the Prime Minister’s speech on Wednesday.
“I would therefore urge our MPs to support the Prime Minister and focus on helping our Government to secure the best deal for Britain.”
And several MPs pointed out that all those who have openly opposed Mrs May were pro-EU – while others warned the chaos could threaten the Brexit process.
Leading backbencher Nadine Dorries said today: “The plot is by Remain MPs to topple the PM, destroy Boris and put a Remain leader in place to delay and possibly destroy Brexit. It won’t work.”
She told Sky News: “It is a fact that since the moment of the election several Remain MPs like Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry have called for her to go because they want a pro-Remain leader.
“It’s slightly pathetic, to be frank – what they should be doing is turning that fire on the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.”
Asked if he agreed with Ms Dorries, Romford MP Andrew Rosindell told The Sun: “I think there is truth in that.
“I will continue to support Theresa May, but she must keep Brexit on track!”
Other MPs expressed concern that any plot to remove the Prime Minister would seriously damage Brexit talks with the EU.
Ex-minister Nick Boles said: “We are engaged in the most important negotiations in our country’s history. It would be criminal folly to question our leadership now.”
Sir Edward Leigh added that it would be “a disaster for the nation to have a divisive three-month leadership election during Brexit negotiations”.
Transport minister Jesse Norman tweeted: “This is absolutely not what the country needs.”
And a host of Tory MPs have tweeted in support of the PM this morning, and attacking Mr Shapps for speaking out.
James Heappey, the MP for wells, tagged his colleague in a post of a GIF of a person being told to “shhh”, while Nadhim Zahawi said he “has misjudged the mood of the party and MPs”.
Veteran backbencher Michael Fabricant suggested Mr Shapps held a grudge because he is no longer a minister.
‘Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be PM?’
It also emerged this morning Grant Shapps had given an interview last month where he admitted he still had ambitions to become Prime Minister himself.
Despite being booted out of Government he said “I don’t rule anything out” when speaking to Radio 4’s At Lunch With.
Asked what would be his dream job he said: “Everyone wants to do the job which is going to do the biggest change to the country.”
Pushed if that included being PM he replied: “Yeah, everyone would want to do that in their right mind.”
Later he was asked if he thought he would be capable, to which he said: “Yes, I don’t think there’s any reason why I couldn’t do it.”
At the end of the interview he suggested he “may well regret” his comments – but said he wanted to come across as “straightforward”.
He said: “I wouldn’t buy a used car from one embittered colleague – let alone take advice from him about who should be PM. Theresa May should remain.”
Sir Edward Leigh tweeted: “True grit Theresa May must stay. A disaster for the nation to have a divisive three month leadership election during Brexit negotiations.”
And Alex Chalk posted: “Calling for Theresa May’s head because she had a cough is beyond parody.
“She’s an excellent PM, and the best of us frankly. Backing her 100%.”
James Cleverly wrote: “I’ve always liked Grant Shapps but he really is doing himself, the party, and (most importantly) the country no favours at all. Just stop.”
Luke Hall said: “Charles Walker absolutely right – Grant Shapps has no base in the party, completely out of touch.”
And Nick Boles messaged: “We are engaged in the most important negotiations in our country’s history.
“It would be criminal folly to question our leadership now.”
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