Davidson snarls ‘put up or shut up’ as backers say: She’s a contender
WAITING IN THE WINGS...
‘Ruth hasn’t shut the door on a challenge’
WITH Theresa May on the rack, Tory MPs are hotly – if discreetly – debating who could replace her, with long-time favourite Boris Johnson circled by a number of possible challengers.
Ruth Davidson appeared to go out of her way to rule out a leadership bid at the Tory conference in Manchester, and yesterday she urged party rebels to ‘put up and shut up’ and fall into line behind Theresa May.
But privately, supporters of the charismatic Scottish Tory leader say she could yet be persuaded to throw her hat into the ring – even though it would mean winning a Commons seat to become eligible to stand.
One said: ‘It’s not a short-term option as she needs to get into the Commons first but I don’t think Ruth has shut the door on an eventual challenge.’ The 38-yearold former kickboxer, who is engaged to her female partner, saved the Prime Minister’s political career at the General Election by winning 12 seats. It allowed Mrs May to cling on to power by governing with the help of the DUP.
She is also seen as determined to stop Mr Johnson from becoming leader, viewing him as toxic to the party’s prospects.
But if Ms Davidson does not stand, her preferred candidate would be another Boris-baiter – Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Ms Rudd famously humiliated Mr Johnson during the EU referendum campaign, branding him as ‘not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening’. The privately educated former investment banker faces two big hurdles: as an ardent pro-Remainer, she would face stiff opposition from Brexiteers and she has a waferthin majority of just 346 in her Hastings and Rye seat.
But Ms Rudd, 54, is now the beneficiary of a local ‘Vote for Rudd’ social media campaign featuring the slogan ‘Fearless’.
That was exactly how Tory activists regarded another potential contender, Jacob ReesMogg, when he confronted Leftwing activists disrupting a Brexit fringe meeting at the party conference.
Mr Rees-Mogg has repeatedly disowned ambitions for the top job, with some MPs believing he is more likely to back a Mr Johnson bid. But the profile of the Somerset MP has rocketed over the summer, leading to a ‘Moggmentum’ campaign that he should stand for the leadership.
MPs yearning for ‘a safe pair of hands’ candidate are increasingly talking up the talents of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon – not for his charisma but for his coolness under fire when a media storm breaks.
First serving as a Minister under Margaret Thatcher, Mr Fallon, 65, was one of a small number of Conservatives who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Mrs Thatcher not to resign as Prime Minister.
Many Brexiteers, though, would prefer another veteran Minister – 68-year-old Brexit Secretary David Davis.