Tories tell Theresa May plot ringleader to 'shut up' as Boris Johnson backs PM in Whatsapp message

Tom Peck
Grant Shapps was told to ‘shut up’ by Andrea Leadsom: Elliot Franks

The leader of the plot to oust Theresa May has been told to “shut up” by former leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom, as the party desperately attempts to put on a show of unity at the end of yet another chaotic week.

In a private text message sent to Conservative MPs via their Whatsapp group, Boris Johnson urged them to “get behind the PM.”

The Foreign Secretary said: “Ordinary punters I have spoken to thought her speech was good and anyone can have a cold.

“Circle the wagons turn the fire on Corbyn and talk about nothing except our great policies and what we can do for the country.”

But other MPs have urged Theresa May to regain control of the party by sacking Mr Johnson, in the wake of two troublemaking articles in the last two weeks, in which he outlined his own, personal Brexit “red lines” as distinct from the government’s position. She has also been encouraged to have a major cabinet reshuffle, bringing in younger, fresher faces from the 2015 and 2017 intake.

Three Tory MPs – Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston – all called for Mr Johnson to be sacked after his insensitive comments at Conservative party conference that Sirte in northern Libya could become a new Dubai, once “they clear the dead bodies away”.

Commons Leader MsLeadsom said Mr Shapps should “shut up”, after his media appearances on Friday, claiming to have a list of “30 names” of Tory MPs who want Ms May to stand down. Tory MP Michael Fabricant meanwhile described Mr Shapps as "embittered" while colleague Vicky Ford dismissed the former party chairman as "completely out of touch", revealing "he's not even in our WhatsApp group".

Ms 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 Ms May "has the absolute support of her entire Cabinet and of her party".

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson - who has been tipped as a potential successor to Mrs May - hit out at the plotters. "I have to say I've not got much time for them. I really don't think that having a bit of a cold ... when you are trying to make a speech changes the fundamentals of whether Theresa May is the right person to lead the country," she told the BBC's Political Thinking podcast. "I think there's an awful lot of people in our party that need to settle down."

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