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Wednesday 6th March 2013 | 09:30
Are May and Hammond the new alliance that's unnerving No.10?
They lack a Jeremy Clarkson (though some say that petrholhead Chris Grayling fits that bill nicely) but the Home Secretary and Defence Secretary are certainly in Top Gear in cheering up backbenchers who want David Cameron to be more of a 'proper Tory'* Prime Minister.
The Times today reports (£) on what looks like suspicions that a Cabinet rival (or was it Downing Street?) last weekend leaked details of Theresa May’s determination to distance Britain from the European Court of Human Rights. May had been thinking of setting out her thoughts on the matter but someone published her intentions without her knowledge.
May’s stock has indeed been rising amid her determination to clamp down on immigration and take on the rulings of the European court.
While George Osborne has few concrete measures of success these days, the Home Sec can point to real, actual delivery on falling immigration and crime figures. Quietly just getting on with it, she could be a contender post 2015.
She also happens to be a woman. And as the Sun's poll showed yesterday, the Conservatives appear to have a 'women problem', lagging 12 points behind Labour among female voters.
Philip Hammond meanwhile has finally discovered that the Defence Secretary has to defend the defence budget. The Sun is notably warmer to him since he stopped sounding like the Treasury's man in the MoD and more like Liam Fox.
They've already spoken out at Cabinet to defend their corner against the Danny Alexander axe looming for the 2015/16 spending review. So, rather than being rivals, could May and Hammond form a partnership once Cameron and Osborne have gone?
And could Chris Grayling be the extra member of the trio?
May as PM, Hammond as Chancellor, Grayling as Home Secretary is one idea doing the rounds, should their respective leadership bids turn into reality.
Of course, it would take an earthquake of much bigger proportions than Eastleigh to shift David Cameron and George Osborne before 2015. And if they do lose the next election, it may well be Shadow leader, Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary that May, Hammond and Grayling are in line for.
All that's missing is the Stig.
If he gets a seat in time, maybe the man behind the mysterious mask could be Boris?
*FOOTNOTE: Michael Savage quotes one ministerial admirer of Michael Gove, willing him to change his mind about ruling out the leadership.
“In the end, why do we do this?...Would he really turn down the chance to lead, if asked?”
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