- Former Conservative chairman says May must go “sooner rather than later”.
- Grant Shapps says the prime minister cannot recover following disastrous party conference speech.
- He says around 30 Tory MPs including five former ministers are willing to publicly call for her to step aside.
- Cabinet ministers rally around May.
LONDON — A senior Conservative MP has admitted being behind a plot to oust Theresa May “sooner rather than later.”
Former Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said there are around 30 MP, including five former Cabinet ministers, who are now willing to publicly call for the prime minister to stand down.
Shapps told the Today programme that the Conservative’s often chaotic conference meant that “some colleagues feel it would be better to have that leadership election sooner or rather later”.
He added: “There’s nothing wrong or illegitimate in saying we can do better than this.”
He said he had also spoken to current cabinet ministers who agreed that May should step aside.
In a round of broadcast interviews, Shapps said the experience from Gordon Brown and John Major’s premierships, was that leaders in May’s position rarely recovered.
“I don’t think we’re heading anywhere different,” he told Sky.
Shapps said that his role in the plot, which was not yet due to go public, was leaked by government whips to the Times newspapers in an apparent attempt to smoke him out.
“I’m surprised the Whips think its a good idea to publicise it, at least people now know where to come.”
May’s cabinet publicly rallied around May this morning, with the Environment Secretary Michael Gove telling the Today programme that stories about the prime minister’s troubles were “one of the most boring stories in politics.”
He said he doesn’t “know of a single cabinet minister who [wants May to step down]” adding that “we are all behind Theresa.”
“The truth is that the entirety of the cabinet want the prime minister to concentrate on doing the job.”
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd also backed the PM, in an article for the Telegraph.
However, Rudd acknowledged that May’s speech, in which she lost her voice, suffered a prank in which she was handed a P45 and stood in front of a slogan, the letters of which began to fall off, was “at times a little hard to watch.”
A Conservative leadership election will only be called if May resigns or if 50 Tory MPs write to request one. Supporters of the plot to oust May have told Business Insider that the necessary support for a formal challenge is not yet there, but believe May could be persuaded to stand down in the coming days and week.
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