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Boris Johnson backs May amid leadership bid rumours

By PA Reporters

Boris Johnson has brushed off reports he is plotting to oust Theresa May, insisting he fully supported her attempts to form a minority government.

Writing in The Sun, the Foreign Secretary said Mrs May deserved the backing of the Conservative Party having secured the largest number of Tory votes since the days of Margaret Thatcher.

He said there was no appetite among the public for a leadership contest which could plunge the party into a fresh general election.

"To those that say the PM should step down, or that we need another election or even - God help us - a second referendum, I say come off it. Get a grip, everyone," he said.

Earlier it was reported that Mr Johnson had sent a WhatsApp message to Commons colleagues urging them to "calm down" following the election.

Mr Johnson's eight-point message said Tory MPs must "stop the narrative" that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "somehow won this thing", noting he "barely did better" than Gordon Brown in 2010, ITV News reported.

The timing of the message, and the subsequent public release of it, will do little to quash speculation Mr Johnson is setting the scene for a potential leadership bid.

Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, now London Evening Standard editor, mocked Mr Johnson on the Andrew Marr Show.

He told the BBC programme: "I've been reading stories about Boris Johnson running a leadership campaign for years. He's in a permanent leadership campaign so I'm not sure it qualifies as news."

Sources close to the Foreign Secretary had earlier dismissed reports he was plotting a leadership bid as "complete b******s" and suggested "someone is trying to make mischief".

In the messages obtained by ITV, Mr Johnson is said to have written: "Folks we need to calm down and get behind the Prime Minister. She won more votes than anyone since Margaret Thatcher. I can't remember us having anything like 43% of the vote."

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