Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening said she could be prepared to run for the Tory leadership if Theresa May resigns or is forced out.
The ex-education secretary is campaigning for improved social mobility and called for a national effort to boost access to opportunities similar to that shown by the founders of the welfare state and NHS.
Although Ms Greening indicated she could run for the leadership if there was a vacancy, she insisted that she would prefer the Tory Party to change now in order to show what it can do to address the problem.
Ms Greening, a prominent pro-EU Conservative, quit Mrs May’s Cabinet in January after refusing to be moved from the education brief.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We need a guarantee on opportunity for people in this country in the same way that we try to give them guarantees on health and guarantees on dignity if they are falling out of work.”
In response to the suggestion that sounded like a leadership manifesto, she said: “Things need to change, don’t they, and I think people need to have some hope for the future, that Britain can be a country that runs differently and more fairly than it does at the moment.”
Asked if she would run if there was a vacancy, the Putney MP said: “I might be prepared to, but I’m more interested in the Conservative Party actually showing what it can do for this country.
“Yes, we spent a lot of time having to fix the nation’s finances but what we now need to do is discover – maybe rediscover – our own mission, which has got to be about how we make sure that young people growing up everywhere in this county have the same access to opportunity and it shouldn’t matter whether they have got parents who are maybe middle class, a bit more sharp-elbowed.
“Talent is spread evenly. The challenge of Britain is that opportunity isn’t. That’s what we have got to fix.”