16/10/2012 16:44 BST | Updated 16/10/2012 17:19 BST

Theresa May's 'Love, Actually' Moment Sees Leadership Odds Slashed

The rights and wrongs of Theresa May's decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon to the United States aside, it has done wonders for her popularity.

The home secretary was cheered in the Commons as she announced she was blocking Aspergers sufferer to the US on Human Rights grounds, somehow managing to unite both right-wing critics of the coalition, such as MP Stewart Jackson, and civil liberties activists in praise.

Campaign group Liberty said the decision was "a great day for rights, freedoms & justice" in the UK. "The Home Secretary has spared this vulnerable man the cruelty of being sent to the US and accepted Liberty’s long-standing argument for change to our rotten Extradition laws," it added.

The move also prevented David Burrows, McKinnon's MP, from having to follow through on his threat to resign as a ministerial aide to the environment secretary if the extradition went ahead.

May's decision quickly led to chatter about her being a possible sucessor to David Cameron as Tory leader.

At the start of the day bookmakers Paddy Power had her at 16/1 favourite to takeover the party, following her dramatic intervention this was slashed to 12/1.

Rival bookies Betfair also slashed the odds on her becoming the next leader from 23/1 to 14/1.

The decision has been described by some in Westminister as May's Love, Actually moment, a reference to the film scene where Hugh Grant stands up to the American President during a live press conference.

Gary McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp thanked May for making an "incredibly brave decision to stand up to another nation as strong and powerful as America". Sharp added: "She had the guts to do it".

Other than a brief wobble during her clash with Brody Clark, the civil servant at the centre of the passport checks fiasco last year, May has so far managed to avoid the political death trap that the Home Office has been for many others.

Her announcement yesterday that the government plans to opt out of 130 EU measures on law and order including the European arrest warrant also did nothing to harm her standing among eurosceptics.

And as the most high profile female cabinet minister in a government often criticised for not having enough women in senior roles, the home secretary is also always likely to feature in leadership speculation.

Of course not everyone was happy at her blocking the extradition. Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson said it was "not in the best interests of the country". But then he doesn't have a vote in any Tory leadership contest.