May told she must hold Johnson to his expressions of loyalty

Many Conservative activists fear another leadership contest will exacerbate the divide in the party over Europe, an issue that helped sink the previous three Conservative prime ministers - David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

Theresa May has said she will carry on providing "calm leadership" at the head of the Government following the disclosure that some Tory MPs are urging her to stand down.

Ms Davidson added: "One of the irritants over the last couple of days, for me, particularly as a woman, is this idea that all of these men are supposed to be making decisions on Theresa May's behalf".

His interventions were seen by many lawmakers as undermining May and causing unnecessary unrest prior to the party's conference last week that culminated in a disastrous speech by May, spoiled by a coughing fit, a comedian handing her a bogus employment termination notice, and by letters falling off the slogans on the set behind her.

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". That's fewer than the 48 needed to trigger a leadership battle, so if May is determined to stay, she can - for now.

He added: "The truth is the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs, the truth is the entirety of the cabinet, the truth is the overwhelming majority of people want the prime minister to concentrate on doing the job that 14 million people elected her to do earlier this year".

She told BBC Radio 4's Any Questions that Mrs May "has the absolute support of her entire Cabinet and of her party".

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Her survival has so far been dependent on the absence of an obvious successor who could unite the split party around Brexit and fear of an election that many Conservatives think would let opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into power.

However, cabinet ministers, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, were among those who backed the prime minister on Friday.

It also said half the Cabinet wants Mrs May to leave her post in the next two years.

A leadership contest would only be triggered if Mrs May lost that vote, or chose to quit.

But he claimed party whips had taken the "extraordinary" step of making it public by naming him as the ringleader of a plot to oust the PM in a story in the Times.

"If that was just a problem for the Conservative Party I wouldn't be particularly bothered, but it's a massive problem for the country at the moment", the SNP politician added. It needs leadership at this time in particular. I think it's time we rallied around her [Theresa May] for the country's sake.

However former Tory deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has suggested May's government would collapse before the 2022 election.

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