The Lead PM fears leadership challenge from minister Andrea Leadsom
THERESA May fears old rival Andrea Leadsom will launch a second bid to oust her in any leadership contest.
A top Tory source says the Commons leader has not given up on her No 10 ambitions.
With Boris Johnson wounded by gaffes and Brexit Secretary David Davis’s swagger putting off MPs, strident Brexiteer Ms Leadsom would be the compromise candidate.
The source said: “If the PM goes down she’s waiting in the wings. She won’t launch a challenge herself, but she’ll be in there if there is one.”
Mrs Leadsom, 54, won 66 MPs’ support as she came second to Mrs May in the first round of voting in the July 2016 leadership battle.
Shapps is still trying to gather more support to topple the PM. He claims to have 30 MPs and needs 48 to trigger a contest. But plotters have started melting away after Chief Whip Gavin Williamson saw to the outing of the ex-party chairman as chief conspirator.
Tory MP Nigel Evans said he would be surprised if Mr Shapps has more than eight names now.
He added: “This is more a tantrum than a plot. Grant is just upset the PM doesn’t appreciate his greatness. The whips did an amazing job to flush him out.”
But a leading rebel told the Sunday Mirror Mr Williamson’s actions make a leadership contest more likely. The source said Mr Shapps has considerable support and had hoped to lead a delegation to No 10 to discuss Mrs May’s departure date.
Among those known to be unhappy with her are ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, ex-Industry Minister Anna Soubry and former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
The rebel said: “We were trying to have a conversation with the PM, now our only option is to put letters in for a contest.
“Some of us were happy for Mrs May to conclude Brexit and go in 2019. Others feel she should go by the end of the year.”