Boris Johnson's decision against running for the Tory leadership has been described as “breathtaking” by MPs.
He has already proved a target for other contenders, with candidates including work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb and home secretary Theresa May pre-emptively slamming the former London mayor even before he confirmed whether he would enter the campaign.
Similarly, announcing his own bid for the leadership, Johnson's former ally in the Vote Leave campaign Michael Gove said: "I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead."
Responding to Johnson's withdrawal, Boris backer and Tory MP Steve Baker told City A.M.: “It was a breathtaking announcement. I'm very disappointed, but I very much hope that his great talents and energy will be brought to bear in government and the coming election campaign."
Baker declined to comment on which of the remaining candidates would secure his support.
Chris Philp, who is backing Teresa May, said the announcement was "completely unexpected", adding that it underlined the home secretary's claims as the "stability candidate".
Pressed on why justice secretary Michael Gove could not fill the same role, Philp said: "Well, he’s gone from supporting Boris Johnson to running against him in 24 hours. People can draw their own conclusions from that."
A raft of MPs who have previously backed Johnson have also waded into the debate on social media.
Terribly sad. In doing this #Boris confounds his critics and shows why he's the best Prime Minister we'll never have. Now he's Kingmaker— andrew murrison (@AWMurrison) June 30, 2016
In view of Events I will vote for Home Secretary— Nicholas Soames (@NSoames) June 30, 2016