Two cabinet ministers are open to a new party. Who are they?
Amber Rudd and Damian Green are among the names in the frame.
Two senior members of Theresa May's government have expressed an interest in the idea of a new political party, according to the Remain campaign's new star player James Chapman.
Earlier this week, the former adviser to George Osborne and David Davis called on centrist, anti-Brexit MPs to form a new party called The Democrats.
This morning, Chapman revealed the reaction as he did battle with Jacob Rees Mogg on the Today programme.
"Two people in the cabinet now, and a number of people who have been in Conservative cabinets before now, better cabinets I might say than the current one, and a number of shadow cabinet ministers have also been in touch," he said.
"They are not saying they are going to quit their parties, but they are saying they understand that there is an enormous gap in the centre now of British politics."
Chapman, former political editor of the Daily Mail, did not name the cabinet ministers who had contacted him. But Westminster insiders reckon there are a few runners and riders...
Amber Rudd - 2/1 (FAVOURITE)
The home secretary is a top Tory moderate, who was briefly seen as a leader-in-waiting before almost losing her seat in the general election. A former City worker and a fierce opponent of leaving the EU, she is also a particularly close ally of the party’s most vocal Remainer (and Chapman’s former boss) George Osborne. With a tiny majority of just 346, it is hard to see her taking over from Theresa May any time soon. But she could yet be top dog in The Democrats.
Damian Green – 3/1
Being the prime minister's deputy does not make Green any more relaxed about with the behaviour of some of his right-wing colleagues. For many people, the first secretary of state is the most progressive member of the cabinet – and poles apart from the likes of Liam Fox, Priti Patel and Andrea Leadsom. The former journalist was also strongly opposed to Brexit and has enjoyed good relationships with senior lobby hacks over the years.
David Gauke – 5/1
The Remain-voting work and pensions secretary is seen by Tory MPs as a pragmatic politician who was one of the 'hidden stars' of the last parliament. He is also likely to be on Chapman’s speed dial, having occupied key Treasury positions throughout George Osborne’s time as chancellor. As financial secretary to the Treasury, he will often have worked closely with Osborne and Chapman, especially when the chancellor expressed his desire to "uncork the Gauke".
Philip Hammond – 7/1
At first glance, Hammond’s apparent determination to avoid a hard Brexit makes him an obvious contender for the new pro-EU party. And with cabinet ministers lining up to brief against him, the chancellor might well fancy swapping his current set of colleagues for a new one. But spreadsheet Phil is not known as a radical Tory. Rather his reputation in Westminster is for playing it safe and not making much effort with the commentariat within which Chapman now sits. Has he finally broken the habit of a lifetime?
Justine Greening – 9/1
Greening is seen as an increasingly bold and independent member of the cabinet, who is no longer afraid of the media – and may even throw them the odd scrap. Last year, Greening voted Remain and that revealed on Twitter that she was in a same-sex relationship. Greening declared: "I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you're better off out!" Maybe she was really referring to the Tories...
Greg Clark – 10/1
When Chapman first called on centrist, anti-Brexit politicians to form a new party, he appealed to "sensible MPs in all parties". The Remain-voting business secretary is seen as a sensible and economically liberal Conservative with a social conscience. But he’s not widely known as a risk taker.
Patrick McLouglin – 20/1
Most Tory insiders would be surprised to see the Conservative chairman leading the charge for a new party. In many senses, McLoughlin is a traditional Tory who is not known for maintaining great relations with the media. But he did vote to remain in the EU. And he is now the least popular member of the cabinet with Tory party members. Recent polls suggest that most members have had enough of their chairman after the botched general election campaign. Could the feeling be mutual?
David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Andrea Leadsom and Priti Patel – 100/1
"The hard Brexit plan that Mrs May is persuing is going to take our economy off a cliff. It's going to make Black Wednesday look like a picnic," Chapman said this morning. "And when that happens, the Conservative Party will never be in power again." Surely none of the Cabinet’s hardcore Brexiters would secretly think that he might be onto something...