The ringleader of the Tory plot to oust Theresa May has been roundly condemned by senior party figures as the Prime Minister promised to provide “calm leadership”.
Mrs May brushed aside calls from rebel Tory MPs to stand aside and said she had the “full support” of her Cabinet in her first public appearance since her mishap-strewn conference speech.
Meanwhile, former party chairman Grant Shapps was slapped down by a string of colleagues after it emerged he was the driving force behind the attempted coup.
Mr Shapps, who has claimed to have the backing of around 30 MPs – with some Cabinet members also privately offering support – said the demands for an election were growing.
But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said he should “shut up” and Charles Walker, vice chairman of the powerful Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, said the attempt to force a leadership contest lacked credibility and was doomed to fail.
Charles Walker absolutely right- Grant Shapps has no base in the party, completely out of touch. Many messages of support for @theresa_may
— Luke Hall MP (@LukeHall) October 6, 2017
The only thing that needs burying in the sand is Grant Shapps no doubt together with Michael Green
— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) October 6, 2017
True grit @theresa_may must stay. A disaster for the nation to have a divisive three month leadership election during Brexit negotiations.
— Sir Edward Leigh MP (@EdwardLeighMP) October 6, 2017
Incredibly powerful, passionate speech by PM. Bright, optimistic, addressing major social challenges, esp. housing. Renewing British Dream
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) October 4, 2017
Tory MP Michael Fabricant described Mr Shapps as “embittered” while colleague Vicky Ford dismissed Mr Shapps as “completely out of touch”, revealing “he’s not even in our WhatsApp group”.
Mr Shapps was reportedly later added to the group on the app, simply so colleagues could make clear their fury at his move.
Mrs Leadsom, who ran against Mrs May for the party leadership in 2016 only to pull out of the contest, said: “I don’t think that there’s anything like 30 others and I think what Grant Shapps is doing is incredibly unhelpful.
“Like a lot of my colleagues have said today, he should shut up.”
She told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions that Mrs May “has the absolute support of her entire Cabinet and of her party”.
Arriving for a charity event in her Maidenhead constituency, the Prime Minister was determined to present an image of business as normal.
“Now what the country needs is calm leadership, and that’s what I am providing with the full support of my Cabinet,” she said.
“Next week I am going to be updating MPs on my Florence speech, which has given real momentum to the Brexit talks, and I will also be introducing a draft Bill to cap energy prices, which will stop ordinary working families from being ripped off.”
After Mr Shapps was named by The Times as the leader of a group of around 30 Tory MPs planning to send a delegation to Mrs May to tell her she must go, he accused the party whips of leaking his name in an attempt to “smoke out” the rebels.
If @grantshapps, failed housing Czar, is leading revolt @TheresaMayPM must be doing something right. The Nasty Party is truly back.
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) October 6, 2017
The plan, he said, had been for a group – including five ex-Cabinet ministers – to approach Mrs May in private with a list of names to avoid the “embarrassment” of a formal leadership challenge.
But those loyal to the Prime Minister said it was clear that the rebels lacked the 48 MPs they needed to force a contest under the party rules, and questioned whether they could even muster as many as 30.
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