THE BLOG

Plots and Counterplots: Tory Leadership Chatter

06/03/2013 12:11 GMT | Updated 06/05/2013 10:12 BST
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So apparently Theresa May's plot to take Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights, viewed as part of her plot to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, was actually leaked by a cabinet rival plotting their own plot against her.

There has been leadership chatter against the prime minister for sometime, as there always will be. But until recently it was largely based on the idea of Boris making a triumphant return to the Commons or the rather implausible idea of Windsor MP Adam Afriyie using search engine optimisation to rise to the top of the rankings.

But in the wake of the Eastleigh by-election The Timesreports on Wednesday that allies of the home secretary believe her rivals leaked her thoughts on the ECHR to the newspapers in order to damage her reputation as a competent and serious minister - as pulling out of the court would be extremely difficult.

The Daily Express' Patrick O'Flynn also throws his weight behind the idea that the leaks came from the top of the Tory food chain. "A Tory source tells me that speculation suggests Osborne was behind the leak of May's human rights gambit," he says.

And Matthew Norman in The Independent argues May is clearly after the top job and has decided to bargain "any credibility with the centre and centre left, which is of no use to her at all, for orgasmic coverage in the right-wing media".

Also seen to be on manoeuvres is defence secretary Philip Hammond. This austerity enthusiast's public lobbying against defence cuts will endear him to many backbench Tory MPs - even if it does wind up Lib Dem members of the cabinet.

Ben Brogan in the Daily Telegraph has been watching the growing media profile of both Hammond and May. He suggests a possible future "dream ticket" of May as leader and Hammond as chancellor. "You could be forgiven for wondering if the two hadn't coordinated their efforts," he says today.

And as Paul Waugh from PoliticsHome notes, the pair could run on a Top Gear ticket of "May and Hammond" - suggesting Chris Grayling could play their Clarkson.

There is, however, little actual evidence to suggest that Cameron's position is in any immediate danger. Publicly, both the home and defence secretaries remain loyalists.

Yet, up until now, part of Cameron's sense of security, as leader of the Conservative Party, has stemmed from the idea that there isn't a credible alternative - Boris is outside of parliament, Afriyie is an unknown and Osborne is tainted by economic failure. With May and Hammond seemingly 'on manoeuvres', the occupants of both Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street now have good reason to watch their backs.