The Conservative Party is locked in a “Mexican stand-off” as plotters prepare to try and force Prime Minister Theresa May from office.
A group of around 30 MPs, including former ministers, is planning to go to party whips next week and ask that she stands down now “with dignity”.
But Ms May’s lieutenants and senior Tory MPs backing the Prime Minister are standing their ground, saying conspirators lack the numbers required by party rules to force a vote of no confidence.
Party insiders believe Ms May will survive for now if she chooses to, but only because no other candidate has enough backing, while others fear an unpredictable leadership contest risks Brexit and an election that Jeremy Corbyncould win.
Boris Johnson’s chances of launching a challenge appear to have hit the rocks, with MPs “alienated” by his public interventions which destabilised Ms May during party conference.
The annual gathering of the party faithful ended with a disastrous speech from Ms May, which saw her subject to a comedian’s prank, losing her voice in a coughing fit and standing in front a disintegrating stage set.
One of the people supporting the plot told The Independent: “There have been lots of conversations, and there are around 30 to 35 names.