China rolls out red carpet for embattled Theresa May

‘I’m not a quitter’ insists PM as ‘accidental leadership contest’ looms

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Theresa May inspect a ceremonial guard in Beijing
(Image credit: Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Theresa May is vowing to fight on despite mounting reports that her opponents within the Conservative Party are close to getting the 48 signatures needed to trigger a no-confidence vote.

“First and foremost I’m serving my country, my party,” the Prime Minister told reporters during a Beijing trip intended to focus on trade. “I’m not a quitter.”

Pressed repeatedly about her future, the PM reiterated her commitment to the job, “but stopped short of promising to fight the next election in 2022”, says Politico’s Tom McTague.

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May urged MPs to focus on what matters to the public, rather than Westminster high jinks.

“But having been often accused of sticking her fingers in her ears and ignoring reality, the Prime Minister did for the first time acknowledge that she needs to do more to explain what the Government is up to and to be more forceful about what she believes she has achieved,” says BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

May’s defiance comes as Justice Minister Phillip Lee made an extraordinary intervention following the leaked government analysis into the economic impact of Brexit. In a tweet last night, Lee urged May to rethink her Brexit strategy.

“If these figures turn out to be anywhere near right, there would be a serious question over whether a government could legitimately lead a country along a path that the evidence and rational consideration indicate would be damaging,” he wrote.

As many as 40 Tory MPs have signed a letter calling for the beleaguered PM to be replaced as party leader, according to some media reports. Under Tory party rules, 48 MPs - 15% of the party - must sign in order to trigger a formal vote of no confidence.

While the majority of Tory ministers may support the PM, says Business Insider, there are worries that an unanticipated event could trigger a challenge.

An unnamed MP reportedly told the news website: “Every time an event comes along, whether it’s [the release of Black Cab rapist John] Worboys, or Davos, or whatever it might be, there are clearly those in the party who are agitating to make it into some sort of seismic shift in her leadership. I think the fundamentals are still in her favour but it’s certainly possible that something will come along to change that.”

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