The Daily Mail and more senior cabinet ministers back Theresa May for the Conservative leadership

Jake Cordell
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Theresa May played a low key role in the referendum campaign (Source: Getty)

Theresa May has stretched her lead as the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race this morning, winning the backing of the Daily Mail, support from The Sun, and endorsements from more senior cabinet ministers.

The home secretary, who announced her bid to succeed David Cameron in Westminster yesterday, was described as the only candidate with "the right qualities, the stature and experience to unite her party and the country," by the Mail in this morning's paper.

The UK "is crying out for a steadying influence to calm the fever and heal the visions of post-referendum Britain," the paper said.

"That is why The Daily Mail believes it has to be Theresa May for the Tory leadership."

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The paper, which campaigned fervently to Leave the EU, added she was the "living embodiment of meritocracy" and "in her steeliness... somewhat reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher".

Senior cabinet figures Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, and Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, have also endorsed her bid for the Conservative leadership.

In The Sun, McLoughlin wrote: "Theresa May has inspired my unwavering respect ... When she arrives in Brussels, Europe's bosses sit up and listen.

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"Holding political office and running the country demands a special type of determination. And Theresa has the 'it' factor. Britain deserves a prime minister who unites their party. Someone who will battle for Britain and get the deal we need," McLoughlin said.

He added: "Only Theresa can do that."

The Sun also edged closer towards backing May for the top job this morning. In an editorial it heaped praise on her "flawless" speech yesterday, adding: "Her vision of Britain sounds close to ours. She would make a formidable prime minister."

However, the Murdoch paper appeared to be hedging its bets, also praising Michael Gove as possessing the "best brain in Westminster."

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The justice secretary, who was the official head of the Vote Leave campaign, gazumped his Brexit-backing colleague Boris Johnson yesterday by announcing his own intention to stand for the Conservative leadership. Today he will deliver his first official speech to the party faithful on why he should be the next prime minister.

The Mail said Gove should be given a job as the UK's chief negotiator in Brussels. Its endorsement of May comes just two days after a leaked email from Mail journalist and Michael Gove's wife, Sarah Vine, implied the paper liked the former justice secretary and could only back Johnson if Gove was in his corner.

Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox are the other contenders in the race to take over from David Cameron.

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