The knives are out for Boris Johnson, says journalist Tom Newton Dunn

Theresa May

May pauses to cough. Reuters

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has called on his fellow MPs, who call themselves his "friends and allies", to stop briefing the press against Prime Minister Theresa May because he doesn't know who they are, leaked private messages have revealed.

A source, claiming to be a supporter of Johnson, said that moving him would go down "like a bucket of cold sick" with those who'd voted for Brexit.

Newton Dunn said he believes many Tories want Johnson out, because they "want people to stick together and stick behind the Prime Minister".

It follows reports in The Sun and The Telegraph, with the latter quoting one backer of Mr Johnson as saying that there was a "stench of death" emanating from Downing Street.

"I heartily disagree with the sense, tone and spirit of what they are quoted as saying. I'm absolutely certain from what I know that Boris doesn't want this nonsense to be going on".

Asked what she might do with the Foreign Secretary in a reshuffle, Mrs May told The Sunday Times: 'It has never been my style to hide from a challenge and I'm not going to start now'.

Mrs Bradley, who served the PM during their time together in the Home Office, dismissed reshuffle talk as "speculation", but delivered a public rebuke to Mr Johnson over his controversial remarks at a Conservative conference fringe event.

"One minute journalists are accusing me of being an ice maiden or a robot, then they claim I'm a weeping woman in dire need of a good night's sleep", she told the newspaper.

Prime Minister Theresa May has faced repeated calls from Tory MPs to sack Mr Johnson after he set out his own "red lines" on the Brexit negotiations in defiance of Government policy.

Over the weekend, however, pro-Brexit MPs hit back, urging Mrs May to get rid of chancellor Philip Hammond, who has argued for a "softer", pro-business Brexit that would protect jobs and investment.

'I think he's been deliberately trying to make the Brexit negotiations hard, stall them, obfuscate the issues, I just don't think he's been 100 per cent on board'.

However, Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, insisted the Cabinet was united.

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". A reshuffle would be a huge distraction, we don't need to replace people for the hell of it'.

The Observer newspaper said unnamed senior Conservative figures said while May had no long-term future they were pressing her to shake up her team of ministers, hoping new blood would re-energise the party as well as frustrate Johnson's ambitions.

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