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Kent MP insists there is ‘huge warmth’ for Theresa May as pressure grows on prime minister after nightmare speech at Conservative Party conference

PUBLISHED: 09:43 05 October 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May coughs as she delivers her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May coughs as she delivers her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Greg Clark, who represents Tunbridge Wells, said there is no mood in the party for a leadership challenge

A Kent MP and senior ally of Theresa May has warned rebel Conservatives that there is no mood in the party for a leadership challenge.

Business secretary Greg Clark praised the “guts and grace” the prime minister showed during her nightmare speech to the Tory Party conference in Manchester.

The Tunbridge Wells MP said the party now needed to concentrate on being “effective and cool-headed” in government and that there would be no patience with any “distractions”.

Discussions were reported to be taking place among backbench MPs as to whether Mrs May can carry on following a mishap-strewn address during which a prankster handed her a P45 and she was beset by a persistent cough.

However Mr Clark insisted there was “huge warmth” for the prime minister and the poise she demonstrated in carrying on with her address.

“A lot of the people who were there in the hall and watching it on TV will have admired, frankly, the guts and the grace the PM showed,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“One of the things that established itself very clearly was that the view of the party - of both parliamentary colleagues and activists - is that they regard, correctly, the responsibility of the Conservative Party to be effective and cool-headed in government.

“They have got not patience for distractions from that.”

Following the speech on Wednesday, a number of cabinet ministers are understood to have telephoned Mrs May to offer their backing.

Backbencher Mark Pritchard suggested a “small number” of colleagues were raising questions over her leadership in text message exchanges and warned them “there is no vacancy at Number 10”.

The address had been billed in some quarters as potentially make or break for her premiership following the botched snap election in which the Tories lost their majority.

But announcements including a £2 billion to boost council home building and a new law to cap energy prices to help voters “left behind” by an unbalanced economy were overshadowed by the plague of mishaps and interruptions.

It is not known whether Boris Johnson, who has been the subject of fevered leadership speculation amid his perceived disloyalty on Brexit in recent weeks, was one of the ministers who called Mrs May.

One Tory MP claimed the foreign secretary’s allies had “magnified” their soundings out of support among colleagues.

But following the speech, Mr Johnson tweeted: “Great job by the PM today putting housing at the heart of renewing the British dream.”

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