Senior Conservative Jeremy Hunt has said his ambition to lead the Tories has not “completely vanished” as Boris Johnson faces the threat of a challenge.
But Mr Hunt, who has served as both foreign and health secretary, insisted in an interview “it would take a lot to persuade me to put my hat into the ring”.
The comments were interpreted as a sign that a challenge to the Prime Minister could be coming as he battles to maintain authority over allegations of rule-breaking parties in No 10.
The is SW1 code for: leadership contest is imminent, sign up early if you want a seat in Cabinet, am on phone to donors & getting office set up, there has to be one non-brexit nutter in last 2 https://t.co/bXlK7RbQZM— Dominic Cummings (@Dominic2306) January 18, 2022
Six Tory MPs have so far publicly called for Mr Johnson to resign over the affair, while many more are believed to have sent in letters in an attempt to prompt a no confidence vote.
The House magazine said Mr Hunt denied actively considering a run, before adding: “I won’t say my ambition has completely vanished, but it would take a lot to persuade me to put my hat into the ring.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are seen as the two frontrunners for any challenge to the Prime Minister.
But Mr Hunt was the strongest opponent against Mr Johnson when he won the leadership in 2019, coming second before being comfortably beaten.
Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser who has accused the Prime Minister of lying to Parliament over parties, said Mr Hunt’s remarks were a sign of a challenge.
“The is SW1 code for: leadership contest is imminent, sign up early if you want a seat in Cabinet, am on phone to donors & getting office set up, there has to be one non-brexit nutter in last 2,” Mr Cummings tweeted.