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Tory MPs warn David Cameron on leadership bid amid EU vote in-fighting

Published 29/05/2016

Michael Gove warned that David Cameron's
Michael Gove warned that David Cameron's "apocalyptic warnings" on Brexit will harm his credibility if they turn out to be false

The Tory civil war on Europe intensified as David Cameron was put on notice he faces a leadership challenge after the EU referendum.

More than 50 MPs are ready to move against the Prime Minister, according to prominent backbencher Andrew Bridgen.

Breaking ranks to talk openly of a bid to topple the Prime Minister, Mr Bridgen warned anger in the Tory party was now so intense a challenge was "probably highly likely" as he warned the alternative was a "zombie parliament".

Asked if a vote of no confidence against Mr Cameron would happen, the MP told BBC Radio Five's Pienaar's Politics: "It depends how the next few weeks go, but if true to form, I think there's at least 50 colleagues who are dissatisfied with the way that the Prime Minister has put himself front and centre of a fairly outrageous Remain campaign. I think that's probably highly likely."

The MP insisted the situation was now so dire an emergency general election would be needed before Christmas to restore order.

"I think it's going to be very, very difficult to pull all the sides together and have a working majority going forward," he said.

Nadine Dorries, a l ong-term critic of Mr Cameron, branded the PM an "outright liar".

The Mid-Bedfordshire MP said she had already sent a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, the usual route for urging a leadership contest.

Ms Dorries told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "If the Remain campaign wins by a large majority, I'd say it would have to be 60-40, then David Cameron might just survive, but if Remain win by a narrow majority, or if Leave, as I certainly hope, will win, he's toast within days.

"There are many issues about which David Cameron has told outright lies and because of that trust has gone in both him and George Osborne ... and it will be very hard for either of them to survive in the future."

Pro-Leave Cabinet minister Chris Grayling insisted the push to oust the PM did not have the 50 signatures needed to trigger a contest.

He told Pienaar's Politics: " I don't think there are 50 colleagues gunning for the Prime Minister.

"I can assure you that those people who fought to win their seats 12 months ago are definitely not gunning for a general election by Christmas."

The in-fighting erupted after Brexit heavyweights Michael Gove and Boris Johnson launched an unprecedented attack on the Prime Minister's authority as they accused him of a having a "corrosive" impact on public trust in politicians because he had not lived up to promises to cut immigration.

The Office for National Statistics estimates 330,000 more people arrived in the UK in 2015 than left, despite the Government pledging to get the figure below 100,000.

Number 10 said the Brexit attacks were an attempt to "distract" from a survey of 600 economists showing 88% believed withdrawal would be damaging for the economy.

With 25 days to go until polling, Employment Minister Priti Patel also launched a pointed swipe against Remain campaign leaders Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, even though she did not directly name them in an article for the Telegraph website.

"It's shameful that those leading the pro-EU campaign fail to care for those who do not have their advantages. Their narrow self-interest fails to pay due regard to the interests of the wider public," Ms Patel wrote.

Labour former prime minister Tony Blair warned the referendum will be the biggest decision the UK has taken since the Second World War.

Former Tory leader and prominent Leave campaigner Iain Duncan Smith insisted he would back Mr Cameron in any leadership challenge as he urged fellow Brexiteers to concentrate on winning the referendum.

Tory anti-EU ex-defence minister Liam Fox also said he would want Mr Cameron to stay as PM if the Brexit side won.

Lib Dem ex-business secretary Sir Vince Cable ridiculed the Tory general election campaign slogan that it was a choice between Cameron and chaos, telling Sky News: "We now have Cameron and chaos."

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