David Cameron is considering making Theresa May Foreign Secretary if he is still Prime Minister after the general election, putting in place a hard-headed negotiator in Brussels ahead of an EU referendum, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.
In his speech to the Conservative spring conference in Manchester yesterday, the Prime Minister lavished praise on his “brilliant” Home Secretary who had brought crime down to record lows and “told Abu Hamza to sling his hook”.
If she replaces Philip Hammond in a post-election reshuffle, Mrs May would be regarded as “Britain’s answer to Angela Merkel”, say government sources, in what would be an increasingly hostile Brussels environment for the UK government when a referendum on EU membership is called. The reshuffle would depend on many factors – including the make-up of any coalition, and the threat of the Liberal Democrats red-lining a referendum.
The move could also stifle Mrs May’s chances of building a support base among Conservative MPs ahead of a possible leadership contest later in the Parliament. Despite this, Mrs May is unlikely to refuse the offer of one of the great offices of state. George Osborne, who is understood to still be interested in the leadership, has hinted he does not want to be Foreign Secretary and would likely remain Chancellor. Another rival, Boris Johnson, is set for a Cabinet post after his mayoral term ends in 2016. Sajid Javid is tipped as a possible successor at the Home Office.
Yesterday, with 40 days to go until polling day, Mr Cameron told his party the election was on a “knife-edge” with the choice between “Britain on the rise” under the Conservatives or “turning the clock back” under Labour. “It’s about the chances your children will have,” he said. “The jobs you will do. The security you will have. The kind of country we live in.”
The Prime Minister mounted the most personal attack yet on his opponent, describing Ed Miliband as a “condescending, bossy, interfering Hampstead socialist” and a “hypocrite”.
“I know what this role needs – and frankly, I don’t think Ed Miliband has it. Some might say ‘don’t make this personal’, but when it comes to who’s Prime Minister, the personal is national ... the guy who forgot to mention the deficit could be the one in charge of our whole economy. The man who is too weak to stand up to the trade unions at home could be the one facing down our enemies abroad. The leader who thinks eadership is climbing aboard the latest bandwagon – he could be the one taking the make-or-break calls in the middle of the night.”
He claimed the Conservatives were “the real party of aspiration, of working people” while the mansion tax proved Mr Miliband’s Labour party were a “bunch of hypocritical, holier-than-thou, hopeless, sneering socialists”.
“I would say to everyone: when you’re standing in the polling booth, when you make that mark with your pencil, you are writing our future in indelible ink.” Mr Cameron said that while “sunlit uplands” was a slogan before he became Prime Minister, “today they’re in sight”.
Lucy Powell, vice-chairman of Labour’s election campaign, said: “David Cameron has revealed himself as completely out of touch. There was no recognition that wages are down on average £1,600 since 2010, nor an apology for the NHS going backwards on his watch.”
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