Ministers want Chancellor Philip Hammond to replace Theresa May as a caretaker Prime Minister, provided he appoints Brexit Secretary David Davis as his deputy and agrees to stand down before the next election, it has been reported.
Cabinet colleagues want Mr Hammond installed as leader before October’s party conference, reports The Sunday Times.
The Chancellor supports a “soft Brexit”, prioritising business interests and the labour market over immigration controls. This makes him an unpopular choice for Brexiteer colleagues, who would prefer Davis or Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as leader.
But an alliance with Mr Davis would gain Hammond the trust of Eurosceptics, claim his proponents.
Mr Johnson said this week he would not challenge Ms May for the leadership until Brexit is concluded.
Tory MPs would demand Mr Hammond’s assurance that he stand down to allow another leader to fight the next general election, it was reported. Some back calling an election in 2019 after Brexit to give voters a say on the deal.
A serving minister told The Sunday Times: “I think Philip is the only plausible candidate for a couple of years, with DD [David Davis] running Brexit. He is a more credible caretaker than the current prime minister.”
“The PM’s brand is so damaged it is painful. The calculation that people are beginning to make is that she is so inadequate we can’t wait two years with her in place.”
That the chancellor “wasn’t implicated in the election campaign”, which many believe led to Ms May’s downfall, was in his favour. The chancellor was sidelined by Ms May’s aides in the run-up to the election and had been expected to be fired afterwards.
Another of Mr Hammond’s former cabinet colleagues told the paper that the chancellor had said he was ready to lead: “He told me that if Theresa May could be prime minister, so could he.”
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