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LONDON – The government has been forced to deny press reports that Theresa May plans to sack Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and replace him with current Home Secretary Amber Rudd should Conservative Party win a majority at Thursday’s general election.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday morning that May is lining up Rudd to take over from Hammond after the election as a reward for Rudd’s loyalty and the significant role she has played in election campaigning – including standing in for May at a leaders’ debate earlier this week despite the death of her father just 48 hours earlier.
A spokesman for the prime minister denied the report calling it “complete speculation, rather irrelevant speculation before an election,” according to Reuters.
Hammond, who took over as chancellor in July last year, is largely seen as a steady hand at the wheel of the Treasury as Britain heads into Brexit negotiations, but numerous reports have suggested that tensions between him and Prime Minister May are high.
Hammond has reportedly frequently disagreed with some of May’s key policies, and he recently admitted that he has occasionally used expletive language during meetings with the PM’s team.
A minister quoted anonymously by the Telegraph said they could “see it happening” when asked about Rudd becoming the chancellor, and told the paper:
“There is a chance of Hammond being replaced. Whoever is Chancellor they want someone who will work with Number 10 and share, not keep it to themselves. They want a compliant Chancellor, not an ego. Amber and [Defence Secretary Sir Michael] Fallon both tick the box.”
Rudd does not have a background in economics, studying history at Edinburgh University. She did, however, work for several years at US banking giant JPMorgan. She would be the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer in the role’s near 800-year history.
Rudd has some experience in the Treasury, working as former Chancellor George Osborne’s Parliamentary Private Secretary between 2012 and 2013.
Should Hammond be removed as chancellor it is unclear whether he would remain in the cabinet in a lesser role, or be removed entirely from May’s inner circle.