Guardian News and Media/London
Amber Rudd has said she will not rule out running to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, despite her unpopularity with Conservative party members over her fight against a no-deal Brexit.
The work and pensions secretary said she was “leaving the door ajar” to a leadership bid, although she was not “not particularly working on” a campaign.
May has not set a date for her departure yet, only promising to go once her Brexit deal is through.
But several cabinet ministers, including Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, are building leadership teams, as well as leading Brexit supporters Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Rudd told Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live that it is “entirely possible” she will launch a bid for the Conservative party leadership, saying “I don’t rule it out.”
There has been speculation that Rudd sees herself more as a kingmaker than likely winner of the competition, meaning she could run to drop out and take her supporters to back one of the remaining contestants.
There has been speculation she could eventually back Johnson, who is a friend, despite her saying during the EU referendum campaign that he was “not the man you want to drive you home at the end of the evening”.
She told the BBC she was not going to be drawn on whether she would support Johnson, adding that his language is “an area we would certainly want to test him on”.
She added: “The area that we really disagree on is how we leave the European Union and that’s one of the key areas that I would start with any leadership candidate. And I know that other members of the One Nation group feel the same.
“We have to do it in a way that protects the economy and jobs. So what we oppose – not everybody in the One Nation caucus, but almost everybody – is leaving without a deal, which we think would be damaging. So that’s where we start. And on that I’m afraid I do have a disagreement with a number of my colleagues.”
Under the rules of the contest, MPs will pick two candidates who would then be put to a ballot of Tory members. ConservativeHome surveys show that Rudd’s popularity has plummeted among activists after her campaign against a no-deal Brexit alongside David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell, which has seen them nicknamed the Gaukward squad.
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