EMBATTLED Theresa May went supermarket shopping yesterday — as senior Tories plotted her downfall.
The PM tried to forget her election woes by stocking up on groceries with husband Philip.
But senior party figures could soon be guiding her to another checkout as they draw up plans to replace her.
They are convinced their lame duck leader will be gone by the autumn and are preparing a leadership battle.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is their top choice and will be urged to challenge when the time is right — to save their party and Brexit.
At least three MPs have been asked to stand as stalking horse candidates who would trigger a contest.
But they will do so only if Mrs May falls at one of the many political hurdles she faces in the months ahead.
The PM was sure-footed as she strutted down the aisles of the local Waitrose in her Maidenhead, Berks, constituency.
But some MPs fear she could trip up as early as next week — when she tries to get her programme for government through Parliament.
An insider said: “Theresa’s political future is on a life-support machine. She is only in Number Ten because it suits us to have her there at the moment. We want her to steady the ship, draw up the Queen’s Speech and begin the Brexit process.
“If she doesn’t drop the ball, we might let her stay a little longer — but not too long.”
Tory wolves were circling around their wounded leader less than 24 hours after her election gamble ended in the loss of her Commons majority.
Party grandees say they cannot let her survive too long in case she is forced into an early election, which Jeremy Corbyn could win.
One backbencher told The Sun on Sunday yesterday: “I’ve been approached by three MPs asking if I would stand as a stalking horse. They want someone who the public are unaware of nationally. They hope it will ignite the imagination of others.”
Top-level talks have been held about making a joint approach to persuade BoJo to stand.
He pulled out of his last leadership bid a year ago when he was stabbed in the back by fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove — paving the way for Mrs May to be crowned leader.
One senior party figure said: “She’s dead May walking. We can’t prop her up for too long in case she suffers a heavy Commons defeat and has to go to the country again. Everyone knows that if there is a next time she’ll lose.
“We need somebody who can reconnect with the voters — who’s recognisable, liked and experienced. Boris is our only hope.”
Mrs May was now a virtual “hostage” in No 10, according to her former Home Office adviser Joey Jones.
He said: “What’s happening is nothing less than a ritual humiliation and humbling of a successful Prime Minister.
“She is alone and friendless, a hostage to the Conservative Party within Downing Street, waiting for somebody to knock on the door and say, ‘Thank you very much, Theresa. We have worked out what we want to do with the party so please move on now and sling your hook’.”
Jittery Tories fear her first test could come as early as next week when she faces the dual challenge of opening Brexit talks and the Queen’s Speech.
Their majority, propped up by ten Democratic Unionist MPs, is so slender it will take only a mini-revolt to inflict a punishing Commons defeat.
The Queen will deliver Mrs May’s programme for government a week tomorrow, with Labour MPs certain to cause mischief.
Brexit talks begin in earnest on the same day and EU negotiators will exploit the weakened PM to drive a hard bargain. Mrs May could also face rebellion from the Eurosceptics and Remainers in her own party.
New terror laws she promised after recent attacks could be a future stumbling block if Labour and Lib Dems decide they infringe civil liberties.
The Great Repeal Bill to move EU laws into the UK statute book ahead of Brexit is another target for resistance, along with plans to revive grammar schools.
Should Mrs May survive until the autumn, a failure to get Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget through Parliament could trigger an election.
A Cabinet source said: “There’s a lot of support for Boris. Now is not the time. We need to give Theresa a couple of months. After that, we need to think about the future, and last week has proved that there’s no future in Theresa.”
FOREIGN Secretary BORIS JOHNSON is favourite to be next Tory leader whenever Mrs May leaves. Pro: BoJo, 52, is popular UK-wide, especially with Leave voters. Con: Gaffe-prone. Betfair odds: 2/1.
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