Theresa May 'on borrowed time' as Tory plotters try to oust her as Prime Minister
Theresa May is fighting for her political life after former Cabinet ministers joined a plot to oust her as Prime Minister.
Senior Conservatives publicly pledged their support for their beleaguered leader in the wake of her disastrous party conference speech.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "The Prime Minister will continue in her role to do an excellent job. She has my full support."
But privately, others conceded that Mrs May will depart Downing Street sooner rather than later.
One Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome: "We're in wait and see territory. What is clear now is that she's not going to lead us into the next election. People want an ordered transition, but not clear how that can be achieved."
The Evening Standard claimed that five former Cabinet members were involved in a plot to oust the Prime Minister.
Former arts minister Ed Vaizey said: "I think there will be quite a few people who will now be pretty firmly of the view that she should resign."
A senior MP told PoliticsHome they had been approached by one of them to join a 30-strong delegation to Number 10 urging Mrs May to stand down, but they refused.
However, the backbencher added: "I had thought she would be in place until we leave the EU in March 2019, but I'd say the money has gone the other way and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that she won't. It's a matter of when rather than if.
"But I don't like this hounding of an individual, especially a woman by bullying men. It's disgusting on a human level."
Mrs May's latest leadership crisis has been caused by her calamitous conference speech, which saw a prankster hand her a mock P45 form, the Prime Minister struggle to control a coughing fit, and part of the backdrop fall down.
It is understood that Tory whips have spent the last 24 hours phoning round MPs in a bid to rally support for the party leader.
Charkes Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, insisted Mrs May was safe.
He told Sky News: "The overwhelming majority of colleagues are calm, supportive behind the Prime Minister, as is the Cabinet. We've got a serious job to do over the next four-and-a-half years and she set out a good programme yesterday to start that job.
"The fact of the matter is she was ill - you are actually allowed to be ill - and it was testament to her grit and courage that she got on that stage and gave the speech despite being in a great deal of discomfort."
He added: "There are always a few grumbles and groans and moans. It comes and goes and it's different people at different times doing the grumbling.
"She is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and I think she is doing an excellent job. Yesterday was a very, very difficult day, but she got through it."
Another Tory MP told PoliticsHome: "You will always have MPs talking about the leader, but there is no appetite for a new one."
But former MP David Mellor, who served in John Major's Cabinet, told Sky News: "The real problem for Theresa May is that she hasn't got a very good speech, even if she had been able to deliver it perfectly. It was a Labour-light speech, it is not the speech of someone who has much of a future as leader of the Conservative Party and I think she's a dead woman walking."