Senior party figures have made no secret of their desire to see the beleaguered Prime Minister fall on her sword soon rather than later with a raft of potential replacements waiting in the wings. New International Development Secretary Rory Stewart triggered speculation he would throw his hat in the ring when he called for the next Tory leader to come from the “radical centre”.
He told BBC Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking with Nick Robinson: “I think it’s important at this time when the Prime Minister’s said she’s going to step down to have a voice that’s arguing for being radical.
“But, radical in the centre of British politics, not radical on the extreme right of British politics.
“A voice that’s prepared to say I do want to bring this country together.
“That, of course, I accept Brexit, I’m a Brexiteer, but I want to reach out to Remain voters as well to bring this country together again.
“And the only way I can do that is by moving beyond my brief and beginning to lay out, whether it’s on climate change or any of these other issues, what I think it would mean to be a country we can be proud of.”
He continued: “I have to get the balance right because my primary job is to look after my department and that’s what I really want to focus on day in, day out, but ultimately the Prime Minister is going to step down and if we’re going to have a leadership contest we might as well be open about it and candidates might as well explain what they’re about.”
Meanwhile, former ministers from the May administration have been busy preparing their leadership election campaigns.
Allies of former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab claimed the “smart money” was on him after he secured the backing of Tory donors Lord Harris of Peckham and Michael Spencer, according to The Times.
Mr Raab is keen to position himself as David Cameron-esque liberal Tory and wants to garner backbench support from both sides of the Conservative Brexit divide.
Mr Raab and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are seen as frontrunners in the contest, which is expected within months.
But hardline Brexiteer Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group, is also considering bidding for the to jobs.
A supporter said: “The problem with Boris is that we know him too well.
“The problem with Dominic is that we don’t know him well enough.”