Tories in fresh turmoil as four cabinet ministers revealed to have plotted to oust May after June election
Chancellor Philip Hammond was said to have contacted foreign secretary Boris Johnson within hours of the disastrous national poll
If the Conservative party had thought that Theresa May’s much-trailed speech on Brexit in Florence on Friday was going to herald a period of unity in Tory ranks, then the prime minister and her aides were sadly mistaken.
In an extract from a much-anticipated book by the newspaper’s political editor, The Sunday Times reports that in the hours following the disastrous general election on June 8, four of the most senior ministers in Mrs May’s party were already agitating for her departure from No 10.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, Brexit secretary David Davis and Amber Rudd, the home secretary were all “embroiled in leadership bids” while the Tories were still reeling from the results of the poll, which deprived the Conservatives of their majority in the House of Commons.
Tim Shipman, a highly respected political commentator reveals that “the chancellor texted the foreign secretary at about four o’clock in the morning after the election signalling that he was prepared to back Johnson if he ran for the leadership.”
A source told Mr Shipman that Mr Hammond suggested to his counterpart at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that he could depose Mrs May as prime minister and lead a triumvirate in which Davis “could run Brexit, [Hammond] could run the economy and Boris could run the shop”.
The source, an ally of Mr Hammond, said “I know on that first day [Hammond] thought Boris could be the answer because he’d have this reach and appeal.” The plot came to nothing after it appeared that Mr Davis, who is known to harbour ambitions for the top spot himself, having run for the party leadership in 2005 band lost to David Cameron, refused to agree the arrangement.
It is also claimed that moderates who were close to the previous prime minister David Cameron then tried to install Ms Rudd as PM within days of the election.
The home secretary said she was happy to run, and appeared to have the support of Cameron and Sir John Major – PM between 1990-7, the former chancellor George Osborne and other senior party figures.
The revelations, which come from a book being serialised in the newspaper – Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem – were given added spice by a claim in another Sunday newspaper that there was now “all-out war” between Mr Hammond and Mr Johnson.
The Mail on Sunday says that relations between the two, who represent opposing wings in the cabinet about the type of Brexit that Britain should pursue, have reached an all-time low.
The pair are reported to have had a bust-up after claims by Mr Johnson’s supporters that he had successfully thwarted more moderate views on Britain’s strategy with regards to exiting the EU by writing an article last weekend suggesting that the post-Brexit future would be rosy.
That is “total bulls***,” said sources close to Mr Hammond. “I f****** hate having to deal with Boris on this level. What a shame he feels the need to do this. He is surely not suggesting that his article altered policy which had been worked up for months? The Chancellor has always been in favour of a two- to three-year transition.”
Updated: September 24, 2017 09:15 AM