Sources have suggested that a plan for arch Remainer Sir Nicholas Soames’ to give up his Mid Sussex constituency for the work and pensions secretary to have a safe seat has been reignited. The leadership speculation has heightened again amid suggestions that Theresa May could bring back her deal for a meaningful vote as early as next week. It has led Tory MPs to predict that the Prime Minister could quit after the May local elections leaving the path open for a new leader to take on the next stage of the Brexit negotiations over trade and the future security relationship.
Currently, Ms Rudd represents Hastings and Rye where she has a wafer thin majority over Labour of 346.
In comparison in nearby Mid Sussex, Sir Nicholas, the grandson of Winston Churchill, enjoys a safe majority of almost 20,000.
A source said: “Members in Mid Sussex now believe that they are going to be stuck with Amber Rudd and Conservative central office will allow it to happen.”
Another said: “The biggest obstacle for her was the marginal seat in Hastings but with a safe seat she will be the Remainer candidate for the leadership.”
The source added: “Soames is a total Remainer so if he got a place in the Lords he would be happy to help Rudd out.”
A spokesman for Ms Rudd denied the speculation.
He said: Amber is going nowhere and is fully committed to Hastings and Rye for the next general election and beyond.”
Sir Nicholas described the suggestions as “balls”.
It comes amid suggestions that Ms Rudd and Boris Johnson could try to unite the Tories post Brexit with a joint ticket.
Relations between the two have strained over Ms Rudd’s recent ambush of the Prime Minister which could have taken no deal off the table.
But it is understood that both are being aided by Tory campaign guru Sir Lynton Crosby’s Crosby Textor group.
Leading Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is understood to support Mr Johnson, has said that the two would be the ideal pair.
The leadership manoeuvres come as members of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) have claimed that reports they might give up their opposition to Theresa May’s deal even if she fails to sort out the Northern Ireland backstop are false.
Former Brexit minister David Jones said: “We are not going soft. The group is strongly united so the Prime Minister has to bring back legally binding changes for us to support her deal.
“I have to say there is a lot that is bad about the deal which is not just the backstop so there will be a number of MPs who will find it hard to vote for it anyway.”
Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson said: “The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox knows exactly what he needs to bring back from Brussels.
“Better still, he goes there armed with the knowledge that the Malthouse proposals, discussed by the Alternative Arrangements Working Group in many hours of meetings with officials, are workable.
“The Brexit Secretary has agreed with the EU to set up a joint Taskforce to work up the proposals in practical detail, to be deployed before the end of the Implementation Period. He knows that if he can secure a legally-binding commitment to the solutions agreed by that Taskforce with a definite deadline, he will have succeeded.”