A POSSIBLE challenge to David Cameron's leadership of the Conservatives was discussed by senior right-wing Tories at a private dinner last week, according to an exclusive in The Times.
The main talking point at the dinner was a "plot" to push for an EU referendum before the 2015 general election in what the paper calls "a move designed to destabilise the coalition".
The paper claims that when the subject of Cameron's leadership came up for discussion, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was forced to intervene and "calm down" guests excited by the notion.
The Times claims the dinner is "the most dramatic sign yet of growing discontent among some Tory MPs at the direction of the government, the influence of the Lib Dems and Mr Cameron's leadership style".
About a dozen MPs were at the dinner in Westminster. Among them were David Davis (above left), who stood against Cameron in the 2005 leadership election, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, John Redwood and Bernard Jenkin. It was organised by the Thatcherite 'No Turning Back' group within the party.
A source "familiar with the dinner" told the paper much of the discussion revolved around a "mandate referendum" on Britain's relationship with the EU to be held before 2015, though the "prospect of an early end to the coalition and the chances of a challenge to Mr Cameron were also discussed".
However, one diner told the paper that reports of "revolution" were wide of the mark. "It was a rounded and subtle discussion," he said.
Meanwhile, Theresa May has emerged as a possible candidate for the Tory leadership if Cameron is ousted. The Daily Mail reports that she could step forward after the next election as a 'stop Boris' candidate if there is a leadership challenge.
The Daily Telegraph's Benedict Brogan has blogged that the Home Secretary has been "developing her profile, mixing uncharacteristically revealing interviews with sharp policy positions – attacking judges, toying with scrapping human rights laws", all of which suggest a possible bid for power.
"MPs notice that every week they get an email from her aides inviting them to the 'surgery' she holds for MPs at the far end of the tearoom every Wednesday at 12:30 after PMQs."
The Guardian likens May's position to that of John Major ahead of Margaret Thatcher's demise, as senior Tories "jostle for position" amid the speculation about a challenge to Cameron's leadership. ·