The foreign secretary is holding breakfast meetings in a bid to win over Tory MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate. The revelation comes as speculation mounts over how the failure of the Brexit negotiations will affect Theresa May’s position, with some Conservative MPs convinced it could force her out of office. According to the Sun, Mr Hunt, 52, has even been enquiring among senior ministers about what jobs they would favour in his Cabinet if they promise to back his bid for leadership.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is also revving up his drive for Prime Minister by hosting rival breakfasts at restaurants in Westminster.
One Cabinet source said Mr Hunt is assuring Remainers he wants to compromise while telling pro-Brexit MPs he is the “only person who can deliver Brexit because of his reach across the party”.
The foreign secretary is also holding talks with members of the European Research Group in an effort to whip up support among Brexit hardliners.
But he could encounter some difficulties in his efforts to secure the UK’s top job due to the unpopularity he suffered while serving as health secretary.
During his time in office, he was embroiled in a bitter dispute with the British Medical Association over junior doctors’ contracts and his term saw the first full strike in NHS history.
In February 2016, a YouGov poll found that Mr Hunt was the most disliked frontline British politician, with 65 percent of respondents saying he was doing a poor job as health secretary.
Having been in the post from September 2012 to July 2018, his stint makes him the UK’s longest serving health minister since the NHS was created.
Even so, most Conservative MPs see Mr Hunt as having the upper hand in the race for PM due to the trouble Mr Javid, 49, has faced over Britain’s knife crime epidemic.
The home secretary has also come under fire for stripping Isis bride Shamima Begum, 19, of her UK citizenship, weeks before her newborn son died of pneumonia in a Syrian camp.
Dal Babu, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent and friend of Ms Begum’s family called the death of three-week old Jarrah “entirely avoidable” and said the teenage mother’s citizenship case should be “urgently” reviewed.
Another government source said both Mr Hunt and Mr Javid “are going for it” while Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab are also said to be working hard to sell themselves.
But Mr Johnson’s longstanding plans to become Prime Minister could be dashed as he is “struggling” to secure the backing of moderate MPs, an ally said.