MAY ON BRINK: PM faces SHOCK leadership scrap as CABINET REVOLT – ‘They want her to GO!’
The Sunday Express has learnt that 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady has been asked to hold the unofficial vote as pressure mounts on the Prime Minister to make way for a new leader. The move comes as the pretenders to Mrs May’s crown have stepped up their campaign teams in expectation of an imminent contest. The proposal has come from Tory backbencher James Duddridge in a bid to end the uncertainty over the leadership.
Brexiteer Mr Duddridge hit the headlines when he called for Mrs May to quit immediately before her speech to the Tory conference in October.
Currently, the rules mean that because Mrs May faced a vote of confidence in December she cannot face another one until next December.
But if more than half of Tory MPs vote against her in an “indicative” vote then she might be forced to quit.
It is understood that Sir Graham is now being lobbied by Brexiteers to hold the vote on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of the 1922 committee which runs the parliamentary party.
Mr Duddridge told the Sunday Express: “If we can have indicative votes on Brexit because of the way Bercow is behaving, then why can’t we have one in the prime minister.
“I believe that a clear majority of Conservative MPs, including ministers, want her to go.”
Such a vote would be a secret ballot allowing ministers to vote against their leader without facing the sack.
It is understood that Tory MPs having pleading with her to quit, including a meeting of her whips who are in charge of party discipline with a majority of them saying she should go.
There have been reports that a round of calls Mrs May made to MPs asking them to back her deal led to many of them telling her she needs to step down.
A Downing Street source said: “These are not conversations the Prime Minister is happening. She is just focussed on delivering her deal which is a good deal for the country.”
Another senior government source warned: “They may want to replace her, but the way these MPs are behaving they are in danger of inheriting an empty crown.”
Amid speculation over Mrs May’s health over the weekend it was also clear that leadership teams were gearing up for a contest.
From the cabinet campaign teams are in place for Home Secretary Sajid Javid, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, health secretary Matt Hancock, environment secretary Michael Gove, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and chief Treasury secretary Liz Truss.
A cabinet source last night said that there is “is a reluctance among ministers to wield the knife” but added that he believes a leadership election is “close”.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Express has been told that deputy chairman James Cleverly, a loyalist Brexiteer and former army officer, has a team in place, including a former senior BBC correspondent to run his communications.
But the leading Brexiteer candidates are Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Mr Raab is reportedly being backed by Change Britain and former Vote Leave director of communications Paul Stephenson who works for the public relations firm Hanbury Strategy.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is understood to be backed by election guru Sir Lynton Crosby.
There was also speculation in Parliament that the “watching committee” set up by Lord Salisbury with senior Brexiteers is also planning on backing the former London mayor.
The historic significance of the “watching committee” is that its previous incarnation set up in the late 1930s was set up by Lord Salisbury’s grandfather to get Winston Churchill into Downing Street.
While Mr Johnson is understood to have the backing of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, several senior members of the European Research Group (ERG) have said that Mr Raab is now the favourite among Brexiteers.
One ERG member said: “We need a fresh face and a new generation.”
Another added: “Since David Davis’ chances of becoming leader dropped Dominic’s have risen. He is bright and has a clear vision and would make a good leader.”
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