Amber Rudd is prepared to back Boris Johnson in a future leadership bid – to act as a ‘brake’ on the Foreign Secretary’s ‘wilder excesses’, friends have told The Mail on Sunday.
Allies of the Home Secretary say that if Theresa May resigns before Brexit, she would try to team up with her former foe rather than run in her own right.
It would be a dramatic turnaround in relations between the pair, who have clashed spectacularly over Brexit, with Ms Rudd mocking Mr Johnson’s priapic reputation by describing him as ‘not the man you want to drive you home at the end of the evening’.
Remain-supporting Ms Rudd has accepted that MPs and party members are unlikely to elect a non-Brexiteer while negotiations continue between the UK and EU over the terms of our withdrawal.
But her friends say she has concluded that if the leadership came free before Brexit in March 2019, she could run on a joint ticket with Mr Johnson, on the understanding that she would become Chancellor if he won.
Despite their differences over Brexit, the two Cabinet Ministers have struck up a close working relationship.
Ms Rudd’s supporters believe that Mr Johnson’s flair would be perfectly complemented by her gravitas and competence.
‘They would be unbeatable,’ said one friend. ‘A balanced ticket of Brexit and Remain, and she would act as a brake on his wilder excesses.’
However, if the leadership did not become vacant until after Brexit, Ms Rudd would be expected to then mount her own challenge for the top job.
Neither Ms Rudd, 54, nor Mr Johnson, 53, is planning a leadership bid against the Prime Minister.
But, conscious of Mrs May’s weak political position, both have been discreetly building support in the Commons in case the Premier succumbed to a sudden crisis.
In his Commons office on Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson hosted drinks for 50 Tory MPs – all invited on the basis they had been ‘supportive’ of his work as Foreign Secretary.
Ms Rudd has organised gatherings for colleagues in her room behind the Speaker’s Chair.
Tory MPs have noticed the thawing in relations between Mr Johnson and Ms Rudd in recent weeks, spotting them huddled in private conversations in the Commons lobbies.
This comes after she mocked Mr Johnson last year, accusing him of backing Brexit because ‘the only number Boris is interested in is No 10’, adding: ‘He’s the life and soul of the party. But he’s not the man you want to drive you home at the end of the evening.’
And last month, after Mr Johnson published his 4,000-word ‘Brexit blueprint’, she likened him to a ‘backseat driver’.
Earlier this month, Ms Rudd stoked leadership speculation when she hired pollster Sir Lynton Crosby – architect of Mr Johnson’s London mayoral victories – to help shore up her wafer-thin majority of 346 in her Hastings & Rye constituency.
Last night, a source close to Ms Rudd said: ‘Amber and Boris have a good working relationship on shared issues like counter-terrorism.
She also wholly supports the PM and is on record saying she wants her to stay. She’s not expecting a leadership election.’