And then there were 12. James Cleverly, the Brexit minister, has become the first candidate to withdraw from the Conservative leadership race, citing a lack of support among his MPs.
The announcement comes as no surprise. Cleverly had the backing of just two of his parliamentary colleagues and stood little chance of progressing beyond the first round – let alone winning.
The Braintree MP – regarded as one of the stars of the 2015 intake of Tory MPs and almost certainly destined for a bigger job than his current post in the next government – admitted as much in a statement this morning.
Last week I announced that I intended to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister.I felt that we needed to deliver Brexit and then quickly move the conversation on to other important issues that face the country. I had hoped that the Conservative parliamentary party would support me to be the face and voice of that conversation.To do this I asked them to make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP. It is clear that despite much support, particularly from our party’s grassroots, MPs weren’t comfortable with such a move and it has become clear that it is highly unlikely that I would progress to the final two candidates.For this reason I have withdrawn from the process of selecting a new leader and will not be submitting nomination papers.