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Leave May alone, pleads Tory chief.

A SENIOR Conservative backbencher has played down talk of a leadership challenge to Theresa May, after she came under fire from her own side over her approach to Brexit.

Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the influential backbench 1922 Committee, said that anyone thinking the PM might be pressured into naming a date for her departure should "sit in a darkened room and put a cold towel over their heads".

His comments came after a slew of Tories voiced concern over the direction of the Government, with one prominent backbencher saying that "the window is closing" on the time she has to pull the party together.

In a torrid weekend for the Prime Minister, Eurosceptic former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said she was worried about a "dilution of Brexit" while Remainer Heidi Allen told the PM to "get a grip" and former minister Rob Halfon appeared to liken Mrs May to a "tortoise" in her governing style.

Johnny Mercer told the Resolution Foundation thinktank yesterday that "we are in danger of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister".

The Plymouth Moor View MP said: "How long has the Prime Minister got? I am of the view that any sort of change of leadership is not helpful at the moment and I don't support that.

"But, I do think the window is closing, because politics can be quite a brutal game. At the moment I feel we are slightly struggling with a message and with a vision." But veteran former minister Sir Nicholas Soames - who last week warned that the May agenda was "dull, dull, dull" - moved to steady the Tory ship.

In an early-morning message to his colleagues via Twitter, the Mid-Sussex MP said: "Here's our theme for this week: Recover self-confidence, restore sense of direction and, above all, retain a sense of proportion, while newly-promoted Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said Tories should "all pull together and pull behind the Prime Minister".

Mr Walker told World at One: "It seems to happen every two weeks, we have these spasms within the party where there is this rocking of the boat, there is this off-the -record briefing of the media, and I simply can't understand, really, what is motivating this small minority of colleagues to behave in this way."

Asked if Mrs May should set a date for standing down, he said: "Well, I don't know if she is planning to step down. Anyone who is suggesting that really needs to go and sit in a darkened room and put a cold towel over their heads. This is not a game."

Meanwhile, Mrs May is travelling to China today at the head of a large business delegation, on a mission to bang the drum for investment in the UK as the country prepares for Brexit.

Speaking ahead of her departure, she said her trip would intensify the "golden era" in China-UK relations following President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain in 2015.

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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Jan 30, 2018
Words:486
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