Prime minister continues to have our support: DUP

Prime Minister Theresa May responded to claims of a plot involving Tory MPs to oust her from Number 10, saying she is providing "calm leadership" with the "full support" of her cabinet.
Prime Minister Theresa May responded to claims of a plot involving Tory MPs to oust her from Number 10, saying she is providing "calm leadership" with the "full support" of her cabinet.

The DUP has indicated its continuing support for under-fire Theresa May, after rebel Tory MPs called for a leadership challenge.

However, the party has said it will continue to work alongside the government, regardless of who is in charge.

The prime minister has brushed aside calls to stand aside, insisting she would carry on providing “calm leadership” at the head of the government.

In her first public appearance since her chaotic party conference speech in Manchester on Wednesday, Mrs May said she had the “full support” of her Cabinet.

And her political allies in Northern Ireland, the DUP have also come to Mrs May’s defence.

After the disastrous general election result in June saw the Tories lose their Commons majority, the DUP signed a confidence and supply agreement with the party, in return for an extra £1bn funding for Northern Ireland.

When asked his thoughts on the leadership challenge, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Mrs May “continues to have our support”.

However, he told the News Letter his party would “not get involved in internal Tory matters”.

The Lagan Valley MP added: “The deal we made was with the Conservative party and we will continue to work with the government to get us through Brexit.

“The current difficulties in the Tory party do not help in terms of negotiating the best deal possible with Brussels and I hope it can be resolved quickly, because that is in the best interests of the country.”

Yesterday, loyalist MPs claimed a backbench plot to oust Mrs May from Number 10 was set to “fizzle out” after former party chairman Grant Shapps was identified as the ringleader.

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.

Mr Shapps was a minister in David Cameron’s government, but some Conservative MPs have said he lacks support in the party and is “embittered”.

Nadhim Zahawi, an ally of the former premier, said Mr Shapps has “misjudged” the situation.

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.

Arriving for a charity coffee morning in her Maidenhead constituency yesterday, 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 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.

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.

Mr Shapps insisted support for a leadership election was growing among a “broad spread” of MPs from across the party.

“They are Remainers, they are Brexiteers,” Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“A growing number of my colleagues, we realise that the solution isn’t to bury our heads in the sand and just hope things will get better.

“It never worked out for Brown or Major and I don’t think it is going to work out here either.”

He was angrily denounced by MPs loyal to the prime minister, with Mr Walker dismissing his supporters as a “coalition of the disappointed” who had been overlooked for promotion.

“Number 10 must be delighted to learn that it is Grant Shapps leading this alleged coup,” he told the BBC.

“Grant has many talents but one thing he doesn’t have is a following in the party.

“What you are seeing here is probably the coalition of disappointed people who think their brilliant political talents have not been fully recognised.”

Senior ministers continued to rally round Mrs May, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove – who ran against her in last year’s leadership contest – saying the “entirety” of the Cabinet, wanted her to carry on.

“She showed an amazing degree of resilience and courage this week, of a piece with the fantastic leadership she has shown through the time that she has been prime minister,” he said.