Downing Street has hit back at the “dehumanising” language and “personal vitriol” directed at Theresa May from members of her own party.
The Prime Minister has been warned she could face a vote of no confidence in her leadership by the end of this week – as anger grows over her handling of the Brexit negotiations.
One Tory MP told The Sunday Times newspaper “assassination is in the air”. Another said the PM was now entering “the killing zone”.
A former Tory minister told newspaper: “The moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted. She’ll be dead soon.”
The Mail on Sunday reported that another Conservative politician said May should “bring her own noose” to a meeting of backbenchers on Wednesday.
Asked about the violent imagery used by the Tories anonymously attacking her, May’s official spokesman said on Monday morning: “I don’t intend to dignify those specific anonymous comments with a response.
“The PM has always been very clear that we must set a tone in public discourse that is neither dehumanising nor derogatory.”
The spokesman added: “Personal vitriol has no place in our politics.”
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, has also demanded the MP quoted in The Sunday Times be named.
“This is vile and dehumanising language towards a woman MP, towards a prime minister who, no matter how much you might disagree with her, she is someone who is doing a job in public life,” she told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“Nobody should be subject to that kind of violent language, which I think is normalising violence in public debate at a time when we lost Jo Cox.”
Cooper added: “It’s about time we do know who is that Conservative MP who is making these threats because maybe if they use that language they will stop doing so if they are being called out publicly from using that kind of vile and irresponsible language again.”
The language has also been condemned by a series of senior Tory MPs including Sarah Wollaston and Nicky Morgan.
Mark Francois, a leading Brexiteer Tory MP, said the comment in The Sunday Times was “not language I would use”.
But asked if the source should be unmasked and punished, Francois said he was not going to tell the Conservative Chief Whip Julian Smith “how to do his job”.
His comments further angered Tory MPs who believed he failed to condemn the violent language forcefully enough.
Senior Brexiteer Theresa Villiers has criticised “disturbing” anonymous briefings to Sunday newspapers.
But Brexit minister Suella Braverman said her colleagues were “free to express themselves in the way they wish” and repeatedly refused to say she would back May in a confidence vote.