Amber Rudd has said she is keeping the “door slightly ajar” when it comes to the prospect of running to succeed Theresa May.
The prime minister’s promise to Conservative MPs to step aside if her Brexit deal is passed by Parliament has fired the starting gun on the race to succeed her.
Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid and Michael Gove are among the names who have been mentioned as possible runners and riders.
Ms Rudd is also considered as someone who could enter the fray.
The work and pensions secretary said she “didn’t have a plan” to stand in the next Tory leadership contest, but repeatedly refused to explicitly rule it out.
Ms Rudd returned to the Cabinet in November, following a stint as home secretary.
As the Windrush scandal emerged in April 2018, she resigned after admitting “inadvertently misleading” Parliament over targets for removing illegal immigrants.
More from Amber Rudd
Appearing on BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Emma Barnett Show, Ms Rudd was asked if she wanted to succeed Mrs May.
“I’m going to continue to support the prime minister, she has said that she is going to leave after the withdrawal agreement of the first stage is through so frankly what I think we should all be doing is trying to support her to make sure we do just that,” Ms Rudd said.
She added: “I can tell you I don’t have a plan for it, I’m choosing my words carefully here.”
When pressed further, Ms Rudd said she did not have a leadership strategy mapped out.
Asked if she was “working on it”, Ms Rudd replied: “No, I’m not particularly working on it, I’m speaking to you very genuinely here, I’m just working on supporting the prime minister and getting this deal through, that’s what’s most important.”
She added: “What I’ve said is that I’m not planning to run, so I have kept the door slightly ajar, but I’m not committed to it at the moment.”
Newspaper reports in recent weeks have suggested Ms Rudd is planning on joining forces with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and standing on a joint ticket.
But in the interview she said was “not supporting anybody” – and described his comments about Muslim women who wear a full face veil as “completely inappropriate”.
Ms Rudd added that the “area we really disagree on is how we leave the European Union”.
She said she – along with the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs that she set up with former education secretary Nicky Morgan – would not support a candidate who supported a no-deal Brexit.
When it was put to her that she could step in if the group does not find a suitable candidate to give their backing to, Ms Rudd replied: “That is entirely possible … I don’t rule it out.”