First woman Chancellor ‘a strong possibility’ as Sunak is urged to sack Hunt

Jeremy Hunt discusses tackling problems with inflation

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has emerged as one of three frontrunners to take over as Chancellor if Rishi Sunak bends to a chorus of calls to sack Jeremy Hunt.

The rising star in the Cabinet is described as “a strong possibility” as a replacement in the Treasury as the Prime Minister looks to make sweeping changes to “reset his government”.

Speculation about a reshuffle, which is expected either this week or the first week in September, has intensified as the Tories face a dreadful set of three by-elections on Thursday in what were safe seats.

They are currently expected to lose Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat along with Selby and Ainsty, which had a 20,000 majority to Labour.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are favourites to snatch Somerton and Frome which also had a majority of nearly 20,000 in 2019.

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With the government struggling to bring down inflation and Tory MPs increasingly angry about continued high taxes as the election next year draws nearer, Mr Sunak is being urged to replace his Chancellor.

Government sources have been unable to say if the Chancellor is safe when the Prime Minister weilds his axe.

One source said: “Nobody is safe.”

A source in a different government department has said the Chancellor “will go”.

One Conservative MP told Express.co.uk: “It is no good the Prime Minister trying to reset his government without changing his Chancellor and economic policy.”

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If Mr Sunak does decide for a change in the Treasury there are a number of options he is understood to be considering.

It is understood that former Trade Secretary and Defence Secretary Liam Fox could make a return to government in the hope he can help win over angry Brexiteers on the back benches.

One source said: “There is a shortage of experience in the Cabinet and Liam brings bags of it.”

Dr Fox could land the Chancellor role or it could go to Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride, 61, who was chairman of the Treasury Select Committee in the Commons and was Mr Sunak’s preferred choice when he became leader.

But Ms Keegan, 55, is seen as a rising star among many of her colleagues even though she is not popular on the right of the party.

One source pointed out: “She would be the first female Chancellor but actually a lot of people like her back story.”

Keegan was a school leaver aged 16 and worked her way up from being an apprentice at a car factory to becoming a business executive.

There was speculation that the reshuffle could happen this week, but many now believe it will be the first week of September.

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