Downing Street backs Boris and Hammond but rumours of reshuffle persist

Catherine Neilan
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Theresa May Holds Cabinet Meeting Ahead Of Tomorrow's Florence Brexit Speech
Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond are thought to be safe - for now (Source: Getty)

The Prime Minister has given Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond her backing amid rumours they could be culled in a reshuffle, with a Downing Street spokesman saying she has "full confidence" in both.

Theresa May is thought to be poised to make a series of changes on the front benches, following a disastrous conference that was overshadowed by her pitiful keynote speech, while the foreign secretary hogged the limelight with the wrong kind of headlines.

But today her spokesman insisted she had a "fantastic cabinet", although declined to comment on whether a reshuffle was on the cards.

"The cabinet are all working together... to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit," he said. "The Treasury, like every department in Whitehall, is working hard to deliver that smooth and orderly Brexit."

He added that she had "full confidence" in both men, downplaying the Prime Minister's own comments in which she responded to a question about Johnson by saying she did not "hide from a challenge", and talked of "Brexit doomsayers", which some have accused Hammond of doing.

May is herself clinging onto the role, after a short-lived rebellion led by former party chairman Grant Shapps was shot down by colleagues last week.

Backbenchers now appear to think May is safe - for at least the next few weeks - while Hammond will be under pressure to deliver a palatable Budget to keep his job.

One former minister told City A.M.: "Hammond is safe until the Budget, although of course things are changing fast. It's a tall order, but if things go well in the overall handling of the Budget that might help calm things down."

But Hammond's "negative" briefings could still harm him, the backbencher added. Meanwhile Johnson could be safe simply because May did not want to "take him on".

A second MP suggested that May should, in fact, promote him to deputy prime minister so they could play "good cop-bad cop", although acknowledged it wouldn't happen under her cautious leadership.

Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin is now seen as the most likely candidate for the boot, as the party still dusts itself off from the dismal election campaign, something for which May herself apologised during the Manchester keynote.

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