Tories across EU divide 'could back Theresa May' as caretaker leader after Brexit
Theresa May could be backed as an interim Tory leader by senior figures in both the Remain and Leave camps if Britain opts for Brexit in the EU referendum.
According to The Sunday Times, ministers and MPs from across the EU divide are considering running the Home Secretary as a “caretaker” leader to fight off Boris Johnson if David Cameron is forced to quit.
The paper says Remain-backing Ms May is the only figure capable of uniting the warring factions in the party and blocking the leadership hopes of the former London mayor and Brexit campaigner.
“Several of us are talking about whether she should be a caretaker leader to get things back on an even keel,” a Cabinet minister said.
“If everything goes wrong, we will need a grown-up. Several people who might run themselves would be prepared to put aside their own ambitions to back her.”
Sir John Major, Lord Heseltine and Lord Patten are also reportedly prepared to call for an interim leader.
But senior Brexit campaigner Michael Gove insisted Mr Cameron must stay on for the long term, regardless of the result of the 23 June vote.
“I absolutely think that David Cameron should stay, whatever the result of the referendum and I hope that he will stay for the full second term which he was elected to serve,” the Justice Secretary told the Sunday Telegraph.
“I don’t want to have anyone else as Prime Minister other than David Cameron and if people spend their time thinking about some of this stuff then they are getting in the way of two things: one a fair, open, fact-based referendum debate; and two, the Conservative government continuing afterwards in a stable and secure fashion.”
He added that Chancellor George Osborne should also be allowed to remain in post, despite hostility towards him from sources in the Sunday Times.
The paper claims he has been sacrificed as a “human shield” for Mr Cameron even if Remain wins, and cites ministers and a Tory donor calling for his head.
One backbencher said Mr Osborne was “completely shot to pieces,” adding: “He needs to go off and run the IMF or something.”
The Sunday Times adds that Boris Johnson met with his leadership campaign team last week to discuss tactics.
It also claims Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb is “on manoeuvres” with backing from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Business Secretary Sajid Javid.