Speculation of Cabinet reshuffle mounts - as Theresa May faces calls to sack duo

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The Prime Minister has faced calls to sack both Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond in order to reassert her authority over the Tory party.

Theresa May vowed she would not "hide from a challenge" amid speculation she could carry out a reshuffle of her top team in order to shore up her precarious position.

Pressure mounted from rival wings of the Tory party to axe either the Chancellor or Foreign Secretary in what would be a high-risk move.

Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond
Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But former Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb warned Mrs May not to rush into any reshuffle and said sacking Mr Johnson would deprive her team of a "formidable player".

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson would resist any attempt to demote him, leaving Mrs May with little option but to sack him or leave him in post.

The Prime Minister 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.

But 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."

Brexit-supporters turned on Chancellor Mr Hammond and his Treasury amid concerns they were making the process of leaving the EU more difficult.

Senior backbencher Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the steering committee of the European Research Group of MPs, used a Guardian column to attack Mr Hammond's department - although not the Chancellor himself.

"The Treasury seems unable to hear any voices except those that reinforce their preconceptions. It seems blind to the facts, preoccupied with preserving 'access' to the EU market seemingly at any cost," he said.

Fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries was more direct, telling ITV's Peston on Sunday: "If I were Prime Minister the person I would be demoting or sacking would be Philip Hammond. I think she very much wanted to do that before the election was called.

The plot is by remain MPs to topple the PM, destroy Boris and put a remain leader in place to delay and possibly destroy #Brexit

-- Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) October 6, 2017

"I don't think he has been totally on board, I think he has been deliberately trying to make the Brexit negotiations difficult, stall them, obfuscate the issues. I just don't think he has been 100% on board."

An unnamed Cabinet minister told the Telegraph that Mr Hammond has "completely failed", is "miserable" and "making Brexit hard".

Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine joked on Sky News that he would like to move Mr Johnson to "Mongolia, somewhere like that".

But the pro-EU peer acknowledged that sacking the Foreign Secretary would be a high-risk move because he would not "go quietly".

Mr Crabb told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour that reshuffles were "part and parcel of what party leaders do" but "she shouldn't do it under external pressure, she should do it at a time of her choosing when the moment is right".

He said Mr Johnson was "a pretty formidable player, you want all of your best players on the pitch at the same time, playing together as a team".