Jacob Rees-Mogg plays down Tory leadership bid rumours
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has sought to play down suggestions that he is considering a bid for the Conservative leadership.
The Sunday Times said the Old Etonian, who has seen a sudden upsurge in popularity, was "sounding out" friends about a possible challenge.
Anglo-US academic Ted Malloch, meanwhile, claimed that Mr Rees-Mogg had let slip his leadership ambitions during a private lunch.
"I was at a lunch with Jacob very recently and he indicated he would like to be considered for the leadership when the time comes," Professor Malloch, who is close to US president Donald Trump, told The Mail on Sunday.
"He did not mean now, but at some point in the future."
The claims come just days after Mr Rees-Mogg emerged as the second most popular choice to succeed Theresa May in a poll of Conservative Party members by the ConservativeHome website.
The findings reflect a belief among some Tories that the "young fogey" MP could be a right-wing antidote to the popularity of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
But in an interview with The Sunday Times, he played down the idea that he was ready to put himself forward as a new leader.
"I think if I threw my hat in the ring, my hat would be thrown back at me pretty quickly," he said.
However, the paper quoted a friend of the MP as saying: "Jacob is loyal to a fault and would never do anything to destabilise Theresa May.
"But should she stand aside ... he is starting to look at some of his more ambitious peers and wonder what they have got that he hasn't".