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UK leader Theresa May hits back after rivals plot to remove her from power

Key Points
  • Open warfare as former Conservative chair calls for change of Prime Minister.
  • Sterling rebounds after May promises "calm leadership"
  • No contenders have yet announced any formal bid to be next U.K. leader.
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street on her way to attending Prime Minister's Questions in the Houses of Parliament on June 28, 2017 in London, England.
Leon Neal | Getty Images

The U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has hit back at a plan to remove her from power, saying she will stay in place to provide "calm leadership."

Speaking at a charity coffee morning on Friday, May told reporters that "the country needs calm leadership and that is exactly what I am providing."

Her comments come as former Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps broke cover to admit that he is leading a plot to force May to call a leadership election.

Following the open challenge to May's premiership, the pound fell and at 11:30 a.m. London time was 0.42 percent lower against the dollar at $1.3062. Following May's statement, sterling briefly rebounded to top $1.31.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 late Thursday, Shapps said as many as 30 MPs (members of Parliament) backed him and felt the question of who should lead Britain would not be "to bury our heads in the sand and hope things will get better."

Shapps said May had failed to successfully relaunch the U.K. Conservative Party after the recent general election that saw her the party lose its majority and forced into coalition rule with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Shapps added: "I believe Theresa May is a very decent person and unfortunately fought an election that didn't work out. We've not really managed to see that relaunch."

Theresa May will be ‘gone by Christmas,’ strategist predicts

Stephen Isaacs, chairman of the investment committee at Alvine Capital, said Friday that Theresa May would be unlikely to last as leader beyond Christmas.

"You've got the council of EU ministers meeting on the 19th and 20th of October and they are going to come out and say end the talks now. That will be the final crisis for Theresa May. She's got no plan.

"She said at the election I'm going to deliver this fantastic deal. Well, who are you going to deliver it to? No one is talking to you.

"She'll be gone by Christmas," Isaacs concluded.

The relaunch that wasn't

May became leader in 2016 after David Cameron stepped down in the wake of the Brexit referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Pressure on May grew as many argued that she had never been voted into Downing Street by the public and therefore had no mandate to lead Britain out of Europe.

May surprised many in April 2017 when she returned from a walking holiday to call a snap election, seeking to shore up support and quell disquiet from both the opposition parties and within her own ranks.

Her election strategy, which May herself described as "too scripted and presidential," failed to inspire the British public while the campaign of left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gained momentum.

The June 8 election saw the Tory's 17-seat majority wiped out and the party was forced into a difficult coalition with the Northern Irish DUP.

It was at this point that many observers felt Theresa May could no longer carry on as prime minister.

Getty Images | Carl Court

This week's party conference was seen as May's last big chance to galvanize her party and relaunch her position as both party and country leader.

However, visibly suffering from a cold, interrupted by a prankster and with parts of the stage falling apart, May delivered a shambolic speech that has given fresh impetus to those who would like her removed.

Who might challenge May?

Boris Johnson

The big favorite to replace May should she step down is current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Johnson, a former journalist and mayor of London, was recently deemed to have undermined May by publishing a 4,000-word essay on Brexit just days before her keynote speech. Johnson is viewed as someone keen to leave the European Union with greater speed.

Conservative MP Boris Johnson speaks as he visits Bristol on May 14, 2016 in Bristol, England.
Matt Cardy | Getty Images

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Educated at Eton College, Rees-Mogg gives the public impression of a Conservative transported from the 1950s. Another strong supporter of a "hard Brexit," Rees-Mogg openly opposes abortion, even after rape, has voted against equal marriage and called for the end to the foreign aid budget.

Ruth Davidson

Davidson is the current leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. Her strong showing as an election campaigner, as well as strong performances on television, have led many to view her as the natural heir to Theresa May. Davidson is viewed as a much more centrist member of the Conservatives who holds a less positive view of Brexit.

Amber Rudd

The current home secretary nearly threw her hat into the ring after the recent election. She is seen as a natural heir to previous leader David Cameron. She continuously rebukes Johnson for his open lack of unity and once called him "the kind of boyfriend you would not want to drive you home."

David Davis

Currently in charge of Brexit negotiations, Davis is sticking to the script as a loyal soldier in May's premiership. Many see his role in removing Britain from the European Union as putting him in no position to switch roles in the near future.