Theresa May's potential successors deny rumours of Cabinet coup as anti-Brexit petition hits five million signatures

Two Cabinet ministers reported to be set to take over from Theresa May have dismissed speculation that a Cabinet coup is underway to remove her.

David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, said he had no desire to take the PM’s place, while Environment Secretary Michael Gove said it was “not the time to change the captain of the ship”.

Mrs May was understood to be meeting prominent Brexiteers at her country residence, Chequers, on Sunday afternoon, before convening a Cabinet meeting on Monday morning.

The meeting came as a petition to revoke Article 50 hit five million signatures on Sunday.

What about the ‘coup’ to get rid of Theresa May?

Theresa May has faced rumours of a Cabinet coup to oust her (Picture: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)

As Mrs May struggles to retain control of her Government amid the ticking timebomb that is Brexit, the latest speculation suggested that Cabinet ministers wanted to oust the PM.

The Sunday Times claimed 11 Cabinet ministers wanted Mrs May to make way for someone else and that Mr Lidington was in line to take over the helm, while the Mail on Sunday reported that ministers were plotting to install Environment Secretary Michael Gove as caretaker leader.

But on Sunday Mr Lidington said: “I don’t think that I’ve any wish to take over from the PM (who) I think is doing a fantastic job.

“I tell you this: one thing that working closely with the Prime Minister does is cure you completely of any lingering shred of ambition to want to do that task. I have absolute admiration for the way she is going about it.”

Mr Gove told the BBC: “I think this is a time for cool heads. But we absolutely do need to focus on the task at hand and that’s making sure that we get the maximum possible support for the Prime Minister and her deal.”

He said: “It’s not the time to change the captain of the ship, I think what we need to do is to chart the right course.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond accused those allegedly trying to topple Mrs May of being “”self-indulgent”, saying ousting her would not “solve the problem”.

“To be talking about changing the players on the board frankly is self-indulgent at this time,” Mr Hammond told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

“This is not about the Prime Minister or any other individual, this is about the future of our country.

“Changing Prime Minister wouldn’t help us, changing the party in Government wouldn’t help us: we’ve got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to Parliament.”

Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith told ministers who briefed against the Prime Minister to apologise and “shut up”.

Of dissenting ministers, Brexiteer Mr Duncan Smith said: “I think that’s appalling, I think they should be censured and some of them should be sacked.

“And the idea of a cabal, a cabal that never wanted to leave the European Union, turning out to decide what should happen over our future would be unacceptable to my colleagues.”

MPs will be given the chance to seek to take control of the Brexit process from the Government if they back plans for a series of indicative votes when they vote on their favoured Brexit outcomes on Monday night.

But Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay warned that if the amendment, tabled by Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, passes and MPs bring about a “constitutional collision” then the risk of a general election would increase.

What are other leaders saying?

Nicola Sturgeon joined hundreds of thousands of people marching on Saturday to call for a public vote on EU membership (Picture: SWNS)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Theresa May is effectively “out of power” and would have departed Downing Street a long time ago under normal circumstances.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, she said: “I think if we were in any normal period in British politics, she would be long gone, but the conventional rules are not applying.

“I suppose the one caveat to that is I think she is effectively out of power now and perhaps debating her position is becoming more and more incidental by the day.”

Ms Sturgeon, who joined politicians and campaigners in London on Saturday in calling for a public vote on EU membership, also repeated her calls for another EU referendum.

Irish premiere Leo Varadkar said he will work with Britain on Brexit, regardless of who is British prime minister.

Asked on RTE’S Week In Politics on Sunday about rumours of a coup to oust the Prime Minister, Mr Varadkar said: “Whoever the prime minister is, we will work with that prime minister, we’ve made sure over the last two years we have very good links not just at prime minister-level and taoiseach-level, but also between Phillip Hammond and Pascal Donohoe and so on. Whoever is prime minister we will work with them.”

What about the petition to stop Brexit?

The petition calling for the government to revoke article 50 and reconsider its plan to exit the European Union hit five million signatures on Sunday and is the most popular to have been submitted to the parliament website.

The previous highest total of 4,150,260 was for a 2016 petition calling for a second referendum should the initial poll not provide a definitive enough result.

The woman behind the petition, Margaret Georgiadou, said she had received death threats and had had to come off Facebook after receiving a “torrent of abuse” over it.

What could happen this week?


On Monday Parliament will debate an amendable Government motion on the Brexit deal, which gives MPs a chance to put their favoured outcomes to a vote.

Mrs May could table secondary legislation which must go through the Commons and Lords by Friday to remove the date of March 29 from Brexit legislation.


There could possibly be a  third “meaningful vote” – known in Westminster as MV3 – on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

Downing Street says that no date has yet been fixed for the vote, which must come by the end of the week.


MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin hope to seize control of parliamentary time to force votes on Brexit options.


Once set to be ‘Brexit Day’ but no more. Leave-backing walkers who have taken part in the Brexit Betrayal march from Sunderland are due to arrive in London.