Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart has said he has secured enough support from MPs to progress to the next stage of the contest.
The international development secretary told City A.M. he had secured the support of the eight MPs needed to progress to the first stage of the contest.
“The challenge now is getting the 17 needed to get to the second,” he added.
Five MPs have already publicly declared they are supporting Stewart – Victoria Prentis, Nicholas Soames, Ken Clarke, David Gauke and Antoinette Sandbach.
Earlier this week the influential 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs voted to make it more difficult for leadership candidates to get on the ballot amid concerns that too many were entering the contest.
Those wishing to become the next Prime Minister now need the support of at least eight other MPs to make it onto the ballot paper when the leadership race formally opens on Monday 10 June.
Candidates will then need to win the votes of at least 17 MPs in the first ballot, followed by 33 in the second.
The candidate with the fewest votes will then be eliminated, until only two remain. The Conservative party membership will then select the next Prime Minister from the two remaining candidates.
The former prisons minister has been seen as an outsider in the race to replace Theresa May – who formally resigns as Tory party leader today – but has upped his profile in recent weeks through a social media campaign targeting ordinary voters.
Stewart said he was “confident” he could get to the second round.