Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have emerged as the frontrunners in the race to replace Theresa May as Tory leader.
Johnson is currently favourite to succeed May, but Hunt has emerged as his main challenger with two senior cabinet colleagues coming out to back his bid today.
Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, a convinced Brexiter, and work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, a remain supporter, both endorsed Hunt, with Rudd telling Hunt’s launch event that he was “the outstanding candidate”.
In a frenetic day of politicking, there were also campaign launches from environment secretary Michael Gove, health secretary Matt Hancock, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.
Gove’s odds have lengthened considerably in recent days after he confirmed a story in City A.M. politics editor Owen Bennett’s forthcoming biography of him that said he had taken cocaine before entering politics.
Gove tried to get his campaign back on track today, promising to deliver Brexit and to enact radical economic reforms including the abolition of business rates for small and medium enterprises, lower taxes for poor workers the replacement of VAT with a sales tax.
Gove also took a swipe at Johnson’s plans for a £10bn tax cut for around 3m people, saying he “won’t give the already wealthy another tax cut”.
The hopefuls to succeed May as prime minister have to submit their applications by 5pm today.
They need to demonstrate they have the support of at least eight MPs to take them to the first round of the contest.
The first ballot will take place this Thursday, in which candidates need to win the votes of at least 17 MPs, which increases to 33 in the second ballot.
The candidates with the fewest number of votes with then be eliminated until eventually, only two remain. The remaining candidates will then be quizzed by members of the Tory party, who will decide the winner.