Front runners tipped for top job should Prime Minister May be overthrown
Theresa May’s leadership is under threat following the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis. These are the runners and riders to succeed her.
His spectacular resignation has already led to fevered speculation about a future leadership bid. He has been repeatedly written off by his critics but remains hugely popular with Eurosceptic Tory MPs, having championed their cause relentlessly in Cabinet — often in the face of caustic opprobrium from his colleagues.
The EU referendum polarised public opinion about Mr Johnson, but his shock resignation will only increase his profile and his hard line on Brexit could win him significant support.
The Home Secretary has won plaudits with both Remainers and Brexiteers for repeatedly taking on the Prime Minister — and winning. Tory Eurosceptics once said they could never forgive him after he decided at the last minute to back Remain after flirting with Brexit.
However, since his appointment as Home Secretary they have been delighted with the way he has embraced Brexit, in particular his decision to side with Boris Johnson and David Davis in rejecting Theresa May’s Customs Partnership.
The Environment Secretary has played his cards very, very carefully in recent weeks.
While privately he has raised significant concerns about Mrs May’s Brexit policy and even ripped up a page of her customs partnership plan during one meeting, publicly he has been far more reticent.
While he said the Chequers compromise was not what he had hoped for, he added that he was a “realist”.
His comments are in stark contrast to those of Boris Johnson, who described the Brexit plan at Chequers as a “turd”.
However, he has been actively courting fellow MPs and speaking at innumerable think tank events.
The new Foreign Minister has established himself as a firm Eurosceptic, despite having backed Remain during the EU referendum.
He is seen by some as a compromise candidate, and is said to have taken to inviting colleagues in groups of eight or 10 for meetings with sandwiches in Portcullis House.
The Defence Secretary has been locked in an extraordinary row with the Prime Minister over defence funding, and has been accused of telling officials that he could bring her down. “I made her and I can break her,” he is alleged to have said — although aides deny he used that form of words.
The former Chief Whip is said to visit the tearooms every morning, where he has been seen meeting with Eurosceptic MPs.
Among Tory Eurosceptics, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is a man who can do no wrong.
As leader of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, he has taken a distinctly tougher approach than his predecessor and been merciless in his criticism of Theresa May over Brexit.
He has to date stopped short of directly calling for the Prime Minister’s head, although he has come remarkably close.
Mr Rees-Mogg has always eschewed any leadership ambitions and insisted that his focus is on keeping Mrs May to her promises on Brexit.
And as much as he is loved by Eurosceptics, he was recently branded “insolent” by one Tory minister. At the very least, Mr Rees-Mogg is likely to be a king-maker, but there are some who believe he could end up going all the way.