LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May said she enjoyed the "full support" of her Cabinet after a former Conservative Party chairman admitted he was behind a plot by around 30 MPs to urge her to resign.
"What the country needs is calm leadership and that's what I'm providing with the full support of my Cabinet," Mrs May told reporters in her constituency in Maidenhead, west of London, yesterday.
Mr Grant Shapps, identified as the ringleader of the effort to oust Mrs May after a faltering performance at the party's conference this week and Cabinet infighting over Brexit, said there was growing momentum behind calls for her to step down.
He told BBC radio: "We think the Prime Minister should stand aside now voluntarily so there can be a leadership election as soon as possible. It is clear that we need to have a reboot and that means it is time to move on."
Despite the anti-May campaign, it is still not clear if Mr Shapps and others have enough support to force her out of office against her will.
Mr Shapps is the most senior figure so far to call for Mrs May to quit after her disastrous speech on Wednesday to close out the Conservative conference. He served with Mrs May in Mr David Cameron's Cabinet and, as a former party chairman, helped oversee the successful 2015 general election.
The pound declined on Thursday - Nomura analyst Jordan Rochester predicted it would hit post-Brexit lows if she resigned - amid growing uncertainty over her future at a sensitive time in Brexit talks.
Mr Shapps is the second former minister to call publicly for her to quit since her Wednesday speech, disrupted by a prankster and then by a prolonged coughing fit.
TIME TO MOVE ON
We think the Prime Minister should stand aside now voluntarily so there can be a leadership election as soon as possible.
MR GRANT SHAPPS, who served as a former party chairman and helped oversee the successful 2015 general election.
His group is said to number 30, but he would not confirm the details. Under party rules, 48 Tory lawmakers are required to write formal letters expressing no confidence in Mrs May to trigger a leadership battle.
Senior figures within the party, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the rebellion was still significantly short of this number.
Mrs May had just won some goodwill from EU partners with her concessions in Florence, giving some momentum to talks. Discussions are due to resume in Brussels on Monday, and EU counterparts will be struggling to understand who is calling the shots in London.
"The UK negotiating team is sending the right signals to counterparts in Brussels, but the EU27 collectively are becoming more concerned," said Mr Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group.
He added: "There is an emerging consensus that May is too weak and now damaged to shepherd through the Article 50 process" which she began in March in formally filing for divorce from the bloc.
Dr Ben Worthy, a lecturer in politics at Birkbeck University, said the Tories will let Mrs May "limp on, at least until the next crisis... I don't know who could or would want to replace her".
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE