East Anglian MPs back beleaguered Theresa May

Theresa May is facing a potential leadership challenge sparked by rows over Brexit

Theresa May is facing a potential leadership challenge sparked by rows over Brexit - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

East Anglia’s Conservative MPs have backed Theresa May amid Westminster whispers about plots to force her out of Number 10.

Peter Aldous MP.

Peter Aldous MP. - Credit: Archant

Tories from across the region said the prime minister must carry on or the party risked the possibility of fighting an early election against a resurgent Labour.

Although Mrs May has a enjoyed a period of relative calm since getting the first phase of the Brexit talks over the line last month, there is mounting concern about the negotiations and rows about the proposed transitional period.

Some Tories believe chancellor Philip Hammond is behind the softening on Brexit and influential backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg even hinted the PM should remove him from Number 11.

In the past few days there have been reports of one cabinet member who it is claimed could resign in order to spark a leadership contest. But Eastern MPs are firmly backing Mrs May.

Bernard Jenkin MP.

Bernard Jenkin MP. - Credit: Archant

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Waveney MP Peter Aldous said it was vital his party did not turn on Mrs May particularly on the eve of Brexit talks reconvening.

He added: “I’m fully supportive of the prime minister and with the challenging second phase of the Brexit negotiations ahead of us it is important that colleagues back her accordingly.”

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George Freeman, who quit his role as Mrs May’s head of policy in November calling for a radical shake-up of the party, urged the cabinet to stop positioning to replace her and get on with the job.

The Mid Norfolk MP said: “The prime minister has an almost impossible job trying to negotiate a Brexit that works for everyone. The cabinet needs to argue in private, stop bickering – or promoting their own leadership bids – and get to work supporting her. For the sake of us all.”

And Sir Henry Bellingham, North West Norfolk, also rounded on the plotters accusing them of risking a successful exit from the EU.

“I support her 100% and I believe she is doing an excellent job with Brexit,” he said. “It is totally self indulgent and misguided for any of my colleagues to try and undermine her. All they are doing is putting a smooth Brexit at risk and playing into Corbyn’s hands.’

Even long-time Eurosceptic Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, has backed the PM. He said: “I am absolutely 100% behind Theresa.”

Analysis: Never rule out determined Mrs May

Leading a government, propped up only by a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP, was never going to be easy for embattled Theresa May.

She already has too many factions to keep happy – a job made all the more difficult because of Brexit.

Her Lancaster House speech a year ago cheered the Brexiteers. But since then they believe there has been a slide towards a softer exit from the European Union. This has got many Tories nervous.

Within the cabinet there has long been pressure on Mrs May – primarily from foreign secretary Boris Johnson who is desperate to be the next leader.

But now there is a more dangerous threat – the backbenchers. It is from those MPs that any potential challenger will look to gather support. And they themselves can trigger a no confidence vote.

But she has been in tighter spots before and wriggled free. She won’t go quietly or without a fight.

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