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Boris Johnson could be demoted in next Cabinet reshuffle

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May told she must hold Johnson to his expressions of loyalty

Farage has also said he hopes that, after May's shambolic showing at the Tory conference in Manchester, "the Conservative Party start to say in public what they're all saying to me in private; that [Theresa May] is a waste of space, she needs to go [and] we need a proper prime minister [to take on European Union negotiator Michel Barnier]".

The prime minister, who withstood an attempted coup after a hard Tory party conference last week, has come under pressure to freshen up her cabinet in the hope of bolstering her authority.

He claims he has the backing of 30 MPs so far, following Theresa May's poor speech at her party conference.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson - who has been tipped as a potential successor to Mrs May - hit out at the plotters.

Tory grandee former PM Sir John Major slammed "disloyal" MPs and ministers and admitted he is looking on at the situation in the party with "increasing dismay".

Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, she said: "You've seen some quite unfortunate shenanigans this week in terms of a couple of people trying to push, but the push-back has been pretty strong, we're behind the prime minister (and) she's the best person to lead us forward".

Theresa May vowed she would not "hide from a challenge" amid speculation she could be about to perform a Cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to fix the damage to her authority.

She told reporters: "Now what the country needs is calm leadership, and that's what I am providing with the full support of my Cabinet". This is a woman with agency, with grit, with determination.

"I'm absolutely certain she will keep on going".

"It has never been my style to hide from a challenge and I'm not going to start now", the paper quoted May as saying.

"Get together, knuckle down and make sure our first commitment, our last commitment and our only commitment is to the country we are incredibly lucky to serve". "I think it's time that we have a leadership election now, or at least let's set out that timetable". May made some concessions to Europe in a speech in Florence on 22 September injecting momentum into long-stalled talks. Everyone can get a cold.

Mr 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".

It comes after a former minister said as many as 30 MPs were prepared to demand an immediate leadership contest in order to oust Mrs May.

Senior ministers continued to rally round Mrs May, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove - another contender in last year's leadership contest - saying the "entirety" of the Cabinet wanted her to carry on.

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told Sky News' Niall Paterson the Prime Minister "doesn't have enough authority" and "can't lead her party".

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