Ri­vals for PM pick their part­ners

Could Re­mainer Am­ber Rudd RE­ALLY team up with pro-Brexit BoJo in a bid for No10? Ja­cob Rees-Mogg thinks so. And it’s not the only odd cou­pling as MPs make their moves for the top job

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Glen Owen, Harry Cole and Bren­dan Car­lin

JA­COB Rees-Mogg to­day urges fel­low Tories to back a ‘unity’ lead­er­ship team of Boris John­son and Am­ber Rudd if Theresa May is top­pled dur­ing the cri­sis over her Brexit deal.

The in­flu­en­tial hard­line Brex­i­teer uses an ar­ti­cle in to­day’s Mail on Sun­day – pub­lished on the right – to sig­nal his back­ing for pro-Brexit Mr John­son to team up with Re­mainer Rudd, who yes­ter­day in­fu­ri­ated No10 by sug­gest­ing that the UK could pur­sue al­ter­na­tive op­tions in­clud­ing ‘Nor­way Plus’ should Theresa May’s Brexit plan be re­jected by MPs.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s plea comes as the main ri­vals for Mrs May’s crown pre­pare to launch their lead­er­ship bids. The Mail on Sun­day can re­veal that Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid was can­vass­ing sup­port among MPs on Fri­day, ask­ing them di­rectly if they would back him in a tilt at No10.

A source said: ‘Sa­jid does not think she will have to go next week, but is pre­par­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity she might be forced to.’

He is un­der­stood to have dis­cussed run­ning on a joint ticket with Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt, but the pair are at odds on who would take the top job in such a re­la­tion­ship.

Mean­while, for­mer Brexit Sec­re­taries David Davis and Do­minic Raab are also said to be locked in tense ne­go­ti­a­tions about who should be the ‘se­nior man’ if they join forces on one ticket.

Mr Rees-Mogg, chair­man of the Euro­pean Re­search Group of Tory MPs, calls on Mrs May to stand down ‘re­gard­less of whether she goes down to a crush­ing Com­mons de­feat this week or tries to pull the vote’, ad­ding: ‘It would be much bet­ter if she left of her ac­cord rather than face a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion.

‘Then a plan to ben­e­fit from Brexit is needed, as is the lead­er­ship ticket to progress and unite the coun­try and the party. If, for ex­am­ple, lead­ing fig­ures from ei­ther side were pre­pared to come to­gether such as Boris John­son and Am­ber Rudd, they could po­ten­tially de­liver the Brexit peo­ple voted for with a global, out­ward-look­ing UK that could suc­ceed.’

The Som­er­set MP also re­jects the claim by Mrs May – made in this news­pa­per to­day – that op­pos­ing the deal could open the door to a Jeremy Cor­byn-led Gov­ern­ment, say­ing in­stead that ‘re­fus­ing to de­liver Brexit would lay a car­pet of the deep­est red upon which Mr Cor­byn could walk into Down­ing Street’. A joint ticket with Mr John­son as leader and Work and Pen­sions Sec­re­tary Ms Rudd as his deputy might unite the two Brexit fac­tions – but it would cre­ate headaches when it came to forg­ing a com­pro­mise be­tween Mr John­son’s ‘clean break’ Brexit and Ms Rudd’s Nor­way pref­er­ence. Ms Rudd yes­ter­day be­came the first Cabi­net Minister to dis­cuss pub­licly the mer­its of a ‘Plan B’ if Mrs May’s deal is de­feated in Tues­day’s crunch vote.

In that case, she said, she would pre­fer a ‘Nor­way Plus’ model that would in­volve stay­ing part of the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area, de­scrib­ing it as a ‘plau­si­ble’, but not a ‘de­sir­able’ Plan B.

Dur­ing the 2016 ref­er­en­dum cam­paign, Ms Rudd fa­mously de­scribed Mr John­son as a man ob­sessed with be­com­ing PM, say­ing he was ‘not the man you want to drive you home at the end of the evening’. But last month she told The Mail on Sun­day that she reg­u­larly lunched with Mr John­son and said: ‘I don’t know what he’s go­ing to do. He’s full of sur­prises. We chat, we’re not en­e­mies.’

A sim­i­lar par­ing be­tween Sa­jid Javid and Jeremy Hunt may strug­gle to unite war­ring Con­ser­va­tives. As both backed Re­main, they have held talks with Leaver An­drea Lead­som in a bid to ‘shore up’ their sup­port across all wings of the party.

Mr Javid and Ms Lead­som are to hold a shared Christ­mas drinks party next week, which has been seen as a ‘not sub­tle’ at­tempt to lay the ground for a lead­er­ship bid. But in­sid­ers say the trio had cooled on the idea in re­cent days over who would take the top job.

Mean­while, Brex­i­teers are squab­bling over who could suc­cess­fully be de­ployed as a ‘stop Boris’ can­di­date from their ranks.

Mr Raab’s res­ig­na­tion from the Cabi­net last month over Mrs May’s deal boosted his chances, but also pit­ted him against Mr Davis, his for­mer men­tor. It is un­der­stood that al­lies of

Mr Davis have urged Mr Raab to stand aside and back Mr Davis’s bid, on the grounds that Mr Raab is ‘not ex­pe­ri­enced enough’ to run now and not yet ready to han­dle the ‘pres­sure of me­dia scru­tiny’. How­ever friends of Mr Davis de­nied any of his al­lies had said that. Mr Raab’s col­leagues also de­nied the re­ports. Tory party chiefs be­lieve that, if Mrs May is forced from of­fice, then a re­place­ment must come from the Cabi­net. Oth­ers tipped to run, if only to secure them­selves a strong po­si­tion in a fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clude En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Michael Gove, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Liz Truss and In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Penny Mor­daunt. But Brex­i­teers are an­gry Mr Gove and Ms Mor­daunt did not re­sign over Mrs May’s Brus­sels deal.

Se­nior Tories have also tipped a ‘grey man’ step­ping in, with Cabi­net Of­fice boss David Lid­ing­ton tipped as a ‘care­taker leader’. How­ever, his strong Re­main views mean he would al­most cer­tainly be chal­lenged by a Brex­i­teer, wreck­ing any chance of a ‘corona­tion’ and plung­ing the Gov­ern­ment into a bit­ter six-week lead­er­ship bat­tle.

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