Ruth Davidson has told the Tory rebels trying to bring down Theresa May to “put up or shut up”.
The Scottish Tory leader told Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast that the rebels should “put up, shut up and get off the stage”, as ex-party chair Grant Shapps revealed on Friday he was leading a rebellion of around 30 MPs to get the prime minister removed.
“I think if the plotters were serious, they would be led by someone a bit more serious,” Davidson told Robinson. “I have to say, I’ve not got much time for [the rebels].”
It comes amid reports that backbenchers will pressure May to “impose some discipline” and fire Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary for his repeated interventions in which he set out his own vision for Brexit.
The coup attempt follows the disastrous snap general election result and May’s difficult conference speech, which have left her so weak she appears unable to contain Johnson, leading the press to suggest he is “unsackable”.
May was forced to make a statement saying she would not go and that she was providing “calm and stable” leadership.
Davidson added there were “an awful lot of people in our party who need to settle down”.
She praised May’s “grit and determination” and hinted she found the move against her had a hint of sexism.
“One of the irritants over the last couple of days, for me, particularly as a woman, is this idea that all of these men are supposed to be making decisions on Theresa May’s behalf,” she said.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports the party’s 1922 Committee will insist next week she have a Cabinet reshuffle to show she is still capable of one.
“There’s a general feeling that there’s support for her there but I do think she needs to do a major reshuffle and if she doesn’t act to sack Boris and to bring some new people on board, she has a problem,” one member told the paper.
Several Tory MPs have already openly called for Johnson’s dismissal after he joked Libya could be a tourist destination once the “dead bodies” there were removed.
Heidi Allen said Johnson “does not represent my party”.
Anna Soubry called him “embarrassing”.
On Friday, Johnson’s message to a WhatsApp group of Tory MPs leaked. In it, he said the prime minister was “right right right”.
“We have JUST HAD AN ELECTION and people are fed up with all this malarkey,” he wrote.
“Get behind the pm. 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.”
After the June snap election triggered speculation May would be deposed, Johnson also sent a WhatsApp message defending her, saying: “Folks we need to calm down and get behind the prime minister.”