Home secretary Priti Patel has decided not to run for leadership of the Tory party, leaving Liz Truss as the likely standard bearer for the right of the party.
Patel said in a statement today that she was “grateful for the encouragement and support” of her fellow Tory MPs, but that “I will not be putting my name forward for the ballot of MPs”.
It comes as several MPs are still scrambling to gain endorsements by 20 Conservative MPs by 6pm tonight in order to reach the first ballot of the leadership contest tomorrow.
Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat all have enough endorsements to make it onto the ballot.
Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi and Suella Braverman are thought to be short at the time of writing.
Patel has not yet announced who she is backing for the leadership contest, however it is widely expected that she will choose Truss as her favoured candidate.
The foreign secretary is pitching herself as the candidate of the right of the party and as the best placed person to take on Sunak, who is expected to finish in the top two after the series of MPs votes.
Attorney general Suella Braverman is also battling to get endorsements from MPs on the right of the party.
Conservative MPs will whittle down the wide field to two contenders who will then enter a six-week campaign to woo the party’s 200,000 rank and file members.
“As a lifelong and committed Conservative, I will always make the case for freedom, enterprise and opportunity and work with colleagues to deliver these values in government,” Patel said.
“Like all Conservative MPs and party members, I will be listening to cases being put forward by the candidates standing for the leadership of the party and trust the contest will be conducted in a good spirit that brings our party together.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps and deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab today backed Rishi Sunak, with the former chancellor vowing “a return to traditional conservative economic values” if he becomes Prime Minister during his campaign launch this morning.
Shapps’ endorsement comes after he decided to call off his faltering campaign and throw his lot behind Sunak this morning.
Speaking at his official campaign launch today, Sunak said: “My message to the party and the country is simple. I have a plan to steer our economy through these headwinds.
“We need a return to traditional conservative economic values. And that means honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales. It is not credible to promise lots more spending and lower taxes.”
His comments come after Tory candidates have lined up over the past few days to announce wide ranging tax cuts in a bid to endear themselves to the party faithful.