A GOVERNMENT minister who served as a provincial governor in post-war Iraq has said he believes he would make a good prime minister because of his specialist knowledge of how to rebuild a country.

Prisons minister Rory Stewart - MP for Penrith and the Border - spoke openly in an interview with The Spectator magazine of his hopes to become PM, though he suggested that this was an ambition for five or 10 years’ time.

And he acknowledged that as an Old Etonian and Remain voter who has never served in the Cabinet, he would have several obstacles to overcome to win a vote of Tory members.

Mr Stewart has emerged in recent months as one of the Government’s most vocal supporters of Theresa May’s Brexit deal and has made clear he wants her to remain in office to complete the first phase of EU withdrawal.

He warned that potential leadership challengers like Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab might seek to take the country to a no-deal Brexit, which he told The Spectator was not “the sensible, practicable thing to do”.

He warned against the “extreme polarisation” of politics and said that a “hard Brexit” approach might make a future Tory leader less attractive to young voters.

“Politicians want to believe ‘I can be a hard Brexiteer and I can also be modernising, progressive’ but it will be a very, very difficult trick to pull off,” said Mr Stewart.

Accepting that his stance on Mrs May’s deal might stand in the way of his election as leader, he said: “If the only thing that people care about is delivering a no-deal Brexit and not a Brexit deal then someone like me doesn’t stand a chance.

“If on the other hand you have got Brexit done, or you have got the first stage of Brexit done, then I think somebody who appeared exciting and practical would be quite appealing and I think at that stage people might be a bit weary of Brexit, they might be quite keen to talk about something else.”

Mr Stewart said that “in a normal situation I probably wouldn’t want to run” for the leadership.

But he added: “Difficult periods need different types of people. One of the reasons why I would be tempted towards this job is that we desperately need to rebuild ourselves internationally after Brexit. I am one of the only people in Parliament who is a genuine specialist.”

Mr Stewart said that his experience outside politics - which also included service in the Black Watch, a stint as tutor to Princes William and Harry and a solo hike across Afghanistan - gave him “broader experience of actually running things outside Parliament”.

“I think I’m not stupid and I’m not bad at getting things done,” he said.

Mr Stewart said: “I have clear disadvantages. I am an Old Etonian, I voted Remain, I have not been in Cabinet.

“But there are other bits of me which I don’t actually talk about but which are quite different. I don’t talk about setting up a charity in Afghanistan. I don’t talk about what I did in Iraq. I don’t talk about what I did in Indonesia. I don’t talk about my books.”

He added: “The big question for Britain is not really what could I do if I was prime minister in five, 10 years - but what does the country look like in a hundred years?

“If I were lucky enough to be prime minister, I’d want to do a lot of things you wouldn’t see the results of while I was there.”