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May’s future in doubt as plot to topple her emerges

Reuters LONDON (Reuters) — Divisions over the future of British Prime Minister Theresa May burst into the open on Friday with allies saying she should carry on and a former Conservative Party chairman claiming the support of 30 lawmakers for a plot to topple her.

In one of the most bizarre British political speeches in a generation, May’s address on Wednesday to her annual conference was ruined by a comedian handing her a bogus employment termination letter, repeated coughing fits and even by letters falling off the slogans on the set behind her.

May’s authority was already diminished by her botched bet on a June snap election that lost her party its majority in parliament just days before the opening of formal Brexit talks with the European Union.

Under the headline: “Theresa May will stay as Prime Minister and get the job done,” Interior Minister Amber Rudd wrote in The Telegraph newspaper that “she should stay.” May’s de facto deputy, Damian Green, also said she would carry on.

But the former party chairman, Grant Shapps, said May should call a leadership contest.

“I think she should call a leadership election,” Shapps told BBC Radio 5 live on Friday. He said that after May’s bungled election, her failure to unite the Cabinet and a poor party conference, “the writing is on the wall.”

Shapps said up to 30 Conservative lawmakers backed the bid to informally tell May to go, including five former Cabinet ministers. He said it was unclear if there would be enough support to topple May.

To trigger a formal leadership challenge, 48 Conservative lawmakers need to write to the chairman of the party’s so-called 1922 Committee.

May’s survival has so far been dependent on the absence of an obvious successor who could unite the split party around Brexit and fear of an election that many Conservatives think would let opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into power.Speech

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