James Forsyth

Another name enters the Tory leadership frame

Another name enters the Tory leadership frame
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A new name is being mentioned in the Tory leadership discussions, Mark Harper. As I say in the Sun today, the former chief whip is being touted as a possible successor to Theresa May when she stands down.

One MP who is enthusiastic about the idea argues that Harper squares the circle: he’s both experienced as a former chief whip and immigration minister and a fresh face, as someone who is outside the current government. Having been chief whip, he knows the parliamentary party well. It also helps that doing that job meant he stayed neutral during the Brexit referendum. So, he isn’t loathed by either Brexiteers or Remainers.

Harper has been very active in both the chamber and the media recently. He’s also making himself known to the new intake; Tory MPs were struck by how he introduced several of them to David Cameron when the former PM came to parliament on Wednesday to pick up his leaving gift.

Theresa May wasn’t the biggest fan of Harper’s when he was at the Home Office. I understand that she felt he let work pile up on his desk. She also wasn’t too impressed when he had to resign over his cleaner’s immigration status. But May won’t get to pick her successor.

Harper remains an outside bet for the top job. But the fact he is being touted is a reminder of how open the contest to be the next Tory leader--and Prime Minister—will be.