Tory heavyweights appear to gear up for potential leadership bid

Several senior Tories appear to have begun manoeuvres to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister after another Brexit defeat reignited speculation that her days in Downing Street are numbered.

A number of party heavyweights have articles and interviews in the Sunday papers that suggest they are starting to set out their stalls in anticipation of a leadership contest.

The first Cabinet minister out of the blocks is Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who has called for the Conservative party to “remodernise”.

Ms Truss, who backed Remain in the referendum and was previously in charge at the Ministry of Justice and Defra, picked out cutting taxes for businesses and stamp duty for young home buyers as key policies.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss

She also appeared to be keen to show that she has a sense of humour, joking about a 2014 speech in which she branded Britain’s cheese trade deficit a “disgrace” that led her to be ridiculed online.

She told the paper: “Sometimes politics can be in danger of being managerial. The Conservative Party needs to remodernise. We need to be optimistic, aspirational. We need to participate in the battle of ideas. We haven’t been doing.”

Other Cabinet ministers tipped to join the race when the time comes include Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, who both quit the Cabinet in protest at Mrs May’s handling of Brexit, are also expected to go for No 10.

Mr Raab, a former Brexit secretary and leading Eurosceptic, appears in two papers on Sunday.

In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, he sets out how he would go about tackling the blight of knife crime – one of the main domestic issues Mrs May has faced during her premiership, besides Brexit.

Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab

Mr Raab’s focus on knife crime also takes on the Home Secretary, who on Sunday announced new measures in the effort to tackle the problem.

The MP for Esher and Walton has also attempted to outflank hostile competition by addressing allegations that he used a non-disclosure agreement, also known as a “gagging order”, to silence a former colleague who accused him of bullying.

Mr Raab told The Sunday Times the claims were “completely false”, while his allies suggested they were being deployed as part of a “smear campaign”.

Another former Cabinet minister, Justine Greening, said she “might” run for the Tory leadership.

Justine Greening
Justine Greening

In an interview with The Sunday Times, she said the party needed a leader for the “2020s, not the 1920s”.

“It’s 32 years since we had a landslide and we have to answer the question about why we have failed to connect with people and their ambitions,” she told the paper.

“Until we have a leadership that understands why that’s happened, we won’t be able to change it.”

Ms Greening, a prominent Remain campaigner, quit as education secretary when Mrs May attempted to make her the work and pensions chief in early 2018.