Defiant but damaged May vows: I won't hide from a challenge

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

The Prime Minister, who appears to have seen off an immediate attempt to oust her after her mishap-hit conference speech, is still vulnerable and has come under pressure to bring new faces into her top team in an effort to revitalise her administration.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged Tories to get behind the Prime Minister - but acknowledged there had been a moment while MPs "sniffed the air" before rallying round the embattled premier.

Former prime minister Sir John Major criticised the "self-absorbed" and "disloyal" behaviour of some Tories who are "driven by their own personal agenda" - comments which will be viewed as a slapdown to Mr Johnson.

Mrs May has repeatedly faced questions about whether Mr Johnson - a potential leadership rival - is "unsackable" due to her weakened position after the gamble of a general election backfired, depriving her of a Commons majority.

Asked what she might do with the Foreign Secretary, 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.

"I'm the PM and part of my job is to make sure I always have the best people in my Cabinet, to make the most of the wealth of talent available to me in the party."

Mrs May's ill-starred conference speech was interrupted by a prankster who handed her a fake P45 while a persistent cough left her struggling to be heard and a backdrop began to lose letters as she made her crucial address.

The Prime Minister denied she had cried after the speech and hit out at some of the media portrayals of her.

Theresa May
The Prime Minister delivers her keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference (Owen Humphreys/PA)

"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.

She admitted the speech was an "uncomfortable" time but never considered abandoning the address as "I am not someone who gives up".

Questions have been asked about the security arrangements which allowed comedian Lee Nelson - real name Simon Brodkin - to carry out the P45 stunt, but Mrs May said she trusted her police protection officers "completely" - although there would "be a review into the events of the day".

An attempted coup led by former party chairman Grant Shapps has fizzled out but the Sunday Times claimed at least three Cabinet ministers had discussed the need to replace the Prime Minister on Thursday evening, the day after her conference calamity.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson urged Tories to get behind the Prime Minister (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Johnson used a Sunday Telegraph column to question whether the Tories would allow itself to be forced into "an election that no-one wants", adding: "What do you think you are doing you nutters?"

Sir John used a Mail on Sunday article to urge the Tories to "wake up and smell the coffee", telling Mrs May that radical action on her social justice agenda was needed and calling on the party to unite or risk the "neo-Marxist" Jeremy Corbyn taking power.

Of Mrs May's speech, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said she had acted in a "calm and dignified manner" in difficult circumstances.

The PM's misfortune during the speech had been "seized on by a handful of malcontents", Dr Fox said as he issued a call for unity in the party.