Theresa May prepares speech to halt rebellion against her after playing down calls for her to quit

Kate McCann
Theresa May - PA

Theresa May will give a speech designed to halt the rebellion against her next week after playing down calls for her to quit, claiming she will continue to provide "calm leadership" of her party.

Speaking for the first time since her mishap-strewn conference speech in Manchester, the Prime Minister yesterday said she has the full backing of her Cabinet.

She is also expected to take on her critics in a media-blitz early next week, thought to include a radio phone-in, in an unusual move for the typically reserved Mrs May.

Also in Mrs May's diary will be the launch of her energy price cap policy and a review of racial disparity in the UK, as she attempts to get on the front foot by focusing on the domestic agenda.

But she will be forced to tackle the challenge of Brexit talks beginning again and questions over how her budget pledges will be financed amid claims the Treasury has less money in the coffers than expected.

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It comes after Grant Shapps, the former Tory party chairman, was identified as the ringleader of 30 rebel MPs who are attempting to force Mrs May from office.

Facing the cameras in her constituency of Maidenhead, Mrs May said: "Now what the country needs is calm leadership, and that's what I am providing with the full support of my Cabinet," she said.

"Next week I am going to be updating MPs on my Florence speech, which has given real momentum to the Brexit talks, and I will also be introducing a draft Bill to cap energy prices, which will stop ordinary working families from being ripped off."

Earlier, loyalist MPs claimed a backbench plot to oust her from Number 10 was set to "fizzle out".

Grant Shapps Credit: Andrew Crowley

Charles Walker, vice chairman of the powerful Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, said the attempt to force a leadership contest lacked credibility and was doomed to fail.

Mr Shapps, who has claimed to have the backing of at least one Cabinet minister also said the demands for an election were growing.

But arriving for a charity coffee morning in her Maidenhead constituency the Prime Minister was determined to present an image of business as normal, despite a bad cold.

The show of strength came ahead of a tough week for Mrs May as on Monday Brexit talks begin again amid claims that Brussels is inching closer to Jeremy Corbyn in the fallout of her conference speech. 

Negotiators are said to be taking Labour increasingly seriously after chaos in the Conservative party sparked fears Mrs May might not be the one leading the country out of the EU after all. 

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A source said Sir Keir Starmer's plan for the transition period, set out in an article in the Observer recently, went down well in Brussels and has provided space for the two sides to come together and talk about alternative plans. 

There are also fears her own MPs could rebel and table a series of damaging amendments or step up their public campaigns against her Brexit stance, proving a fresh flashpoint for talk of a leadership challenge. 

The Prime Minister will hold another meeting of her business advisory committee on Monday too, where she will discuss Brexit with business leaders.

Her make-or-break speech will come on Monday or Tuesday.

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In a packed schedule Mrs May will face down her Cabinet on Tuesday and on Wednesday the powerful backbench committee of MPs, the 1922, will meet in Westminster. 

Sources expect her leadership will come up, although there are currently not enough rebels to meet the threshold for a leadership election to be triggered - 48 are needed. 

The Prime Minister will also go head to head with Mr Corbyn the same day, in what experts predict will be a furious battle as Labour prepares to take full advantage of Mrs May's weakened position. 

Her Cabinet and senior colleagues are rallying round her and expect there to be lots of noise in a show of support. 

On Thursday the Prime Minister will seek to reset the agenda once again by publishing her draft energy bill in a bid to halt talk of her resignation and move her party on to domestic policy issues.