THE Tories de­scended fur­ther into chaos last night af­ter Boris John­son, who has been ac­cused of jock­ey­ing for lead­er­ship of the party and un­der­min­ing Theresa May, urged Con­ser­va­tives to “get be­hind” the Prime Min­is­ter. The For­eign Sec­re­tary used a What­sApp mes­sage to ap­peal to Tories to “talk about noth­ing ex­cept poli­cies”. John­son said: “We have just had an elec­tion and peo­ple are fed up with this malarkey. Get be­hind the PM. Ordinary pun­ters I have spo­ken to thought her speech was good and any­one can have a cold.”

He told Tories to “cir­cle the wag­ons, turn the fire on Cor­byn and talk about noth­ing ex­cept our great poli­cies and what we can do for the coun­try”.

John­son’s in­ter­ven­tion came af­ter he faced calls to be sacked for desta­bil­is­ing the party fol­low­ing his in­ter­ven­tion on Brexit on the eve of con­fer­ence and con­tro­ver­sial re­marks about dead bod­ies in Libya at a fringe event.

Other se­nior Tories were forced to in­ter­vene in sup­port of the Prime Min­is­ter last night as the party con­tin­ued to face melt­down fol­low­ing a plot to oust her from Down­ing Street. Scot­tish Tory leader Ruth David­son was part of con­certed moves to close ranks around the em­bat­tled Prime Min­is­ter af­ter her trou­bled party con­fer­ence speech.

David­son said crit­ics should “put up” and “shut up”, adding that the calls to move against Theresa May were not led by any­one “se­ri­ous”.

The dra­matic in­ter­ven­tions came af­ter for­mer party chair­man Grant Shapps said about 30 Tory MPs backed his call for a lead­er­ship con­test. David­son, like John­son tipped as a po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor to May, said there were “an aw­ful lot of peo­ple in our party who need to set­tle down”.

David­son said: “I think if the plot­ters were se­ri­ous, they would be led by some­one a bit more se­ri­ous. One of the ir­ri­tants over the last cou­ple of days, for me, par­tic­u­larly as a woman, is this idea that all of these men are sup­posed to be mak­ing de­ci­sions on Theresa May’s be­half.

“Well, have they ac­tu­ally met Theresa May? This is a woman with agency, with grit, with de­ter­mi­na­tion. I backed her in the lead­er­ship, I back her now and I will back her in the future.”

Pres­sure on the Prime Min­is­ter has grown since her Tory party con­fer­ence speech was plagued by a se­ries of mishaps, as she strug­gled with a per­sis­tent cough and was in­ter­rupted by a co­me­dian who handed her a P45. Shapps, who was co-chair of the party be­tween 2012 and 2015, said he be­lieved it was “time we ac­tu­ally tackle this is­sue of lead­er­ship”, adding that “so do many col­leagues”.

For­mer Cab­i­net min­is­ter John Red­wood – who ran un­suc­cess­fully against John Ma­jor – gave his sup­port to May.

The prom­i­nent Brex­i­teer said: “I do not sup­port Mr Shapps in his view that we need a Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship elec­tion.” He also cast doubt about the level of sup­port Shapps claimed to have, point­ing out they had “not spo­ken out or let their names be known”, he said.

“Un­usu­ally ret­i­cent rebels? Or they don’t ex­ist,” he said.

Ge­orge Free­man, chair­man of the Prime Min­is­ter’s pol­icy board, sug­gested that May should bring some fresh blood into her Gov­ern­ment from the ranks of re­cently-elected MPs.

He said the “new gen­er­a­tion of Con­ser­va­tive MPs” elected in 2010, 2015 and 2017 were “much more dy­namic and en­er­gised and open to the way that we go about do­ing pol­i­tics”.

For­mer min­is­ter Ed Vaizey was the first Tory MP to pub­licly sug­gest May should quit last week. He said: “I think there will be quite a few peo­ple who will now be pretty firmly of the view that she should re­sign.”

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