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Suffolk MP Matt Hancock confirms Conservative leadership bid

PUBLISHED: 12:56 25 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:20 26 May 2019

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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One of the region's MPs has entered the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock had been expected to be one of the challengers for frontrunner Boris Johnson, following Mrs May's resignation announcement on Friday.

And the health secretary confirmed he was entering the leadership race on Saturday morning.

He told the BBC: "Yes. I'm going to run to be the next prime minister."

He said he would take a different approach to try to get Commons support for a Brexit deal than the one Theresa May used.

He said: "She didn't start by levelling with people about the trade-offs.

"I think it is much, much easier to bring people together behind a proposal if you are straightforward in advance."

Mr Hancock added: "Some of my contenders may say that if they don't get their preferred option, whether it be no deal or something else, then they'll have a general election.

"I put it to you that would be a disaster for the country and it would risk Corbyn by Christmas."

He later tweeted: "I am standing to be prime minister. We need a leader for the future, not just for now.

"I will deliver Brexit - and then let's move forward to the bright future we must build for Britain."

He signed off with the hashtag #LetsMoveForward

George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP, tweeted that he would not be endorsing any of the candidates until after the publication of the Britain Beyond Brexit book he has been working on with the 2020 Conservatives Group, which he founded.

But he said: "Delighted that Matt Hancock is standing. I've known and shared an office with Matt for 10 years and seen the energy, vision, grip, innovation, breadth and new generation touch he brings."

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd ruled herself out of the contest, but more than a dozen Tories are understood to be considering a bid, with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt having indicated he would be in the race.

South West Norfolk MP and chief secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss has yet to enter the fray, although a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday's You magazine was interpreted as declaration that he wanted to lead her party.

The new Tory leader looks set to take over as prime minister at the end of July after Theresa May finally laid out a timetable for her exit from Downing Street.

Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson, who has emerged as the bookies' favourite, stressed he would be prepared to back a no-deal departure to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31.

The timetable for the contest will see nominations close in the week of June 10, with MPs involved in a series of votes to whittle down what is set to be a crowded field to a final two contenders.

Tory party members will then decide who wins the run-off.

Ms Rudd told the Daily Telegraph: "I am conscious the Conservative Party wants someone who they believe is very enthusiastic about Brexit.

"There are all sorts of plans I would like to have when we do leave the European Union but I don't think it is my time at the moment."

The Cabinet minister made it clear she would not have a problem working with Mr Johnson in government again.

However, prisons minister Robert Buckland expressed concern about a no-deal exit from the EU.

He told BBC2's Newsnight: "My message to candidates is to think very carefully before hurtling away to a position of 'no deal' and not just the self-interest of a leadership competition.

"For them to box themselves into their red lines is not the wisest way to go into this leadership election."

Digital minister Margot James has raised questions over how representative the Tory membership set to elect the new party leader is of Conservative voters.

Ms James told Channel 4 News: "Effectively, the prime minister is going to be chosen by roughly 100,000 people, assuming we go that far into the contest, who don't... some would argue they don't really represent the majority of Conservative voters, let alone the country as a whole."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May's replacement should call an immediate general election.

US president Donald Trump, who makes a state visit to the UK in early June, praised Mrs May.

He said: "I feel badly for Theresa. I like her very much. She is a good woman. She worked very hard.

"She is very strong. She decided to do something that some people were surprised at. Some people weren't.

"It's for the good of her country. But, I like her very much.

"In fact, I'll be seeing her in two weeks."

Theresa May's resignation speech effectively fired the starting gun on the official Tory leadership race.

Here are the main runners and riders vying to take on the mantle of Conservative leader by winning over Tory MPs and grassroots members.

Declared:

Boris Johnson

Former foreign secretary and London mayor Mr Johnson, 54, is considered by most as the favourite to win the leadership race (Ladbrokes 4/5).

Easily recognisable thanks to his popularity on comedy TV shows, he nearly beat Mrs May to the top job in 2016, until friend Michael Gove decided to scupper his chances.

Since then, Mr Johnson has burnished his Leave credentials by walking out of cabinet alongside David Davis in July last year, and has also cleared the decks on a notoriously complicated personal life.

In a speech in Switzerland on Friday, he was deemed to have vowed to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 "deal or no deal" if he is made PM.

Jeremy Hunt

The foreign secretary, 52, campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and would be a moderate candidate on Brexit in the leadership election (Ladbrokes 10/1).

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He battled with doctors as health secretary before being appointed Foreign Secretary in July last year, when Mr Johnson quit.

On Friday, the MP for South West Surrey reportedly told the audience at the Haslemere Festival in his constituency that he intended to run to be prime minister.

Rory Stewart

New international development secretary Rory Stewart launched his leadership bid in an interview with The Spectator last month (Paddypower odds 20/1).

He is known for pledging to resign from his prisons minister post if he could not get a grip on rising levels of drugs and violence in UK jails.

Mr Stewart once walked 6,000 miles from Turkey to Bangladesh, including a traverse of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The MP for Penrith and The Border, 46, was an environment minister in Mr Cameron's government, served in the Black Watch and as a diplomat in the Foreign Office.

Esther McVey

Former work and pensions secretary Ester McVey announced her leadership bid on Friday (Ladbrokes 50/1).

Hosting a radio call-in on LBC, Ms McVey said: "I'll put my hands up here, I better declare an interest straight away. I have put myself forward as a future leader."

The former television presenter-turned MP for Tatton, 51, quit Mrs May's cabinet in November in protest at her Brexit plan and told listeners on Friday that the UK should be prepared to leave the EU without a deal.

Matt Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock, 40, announced on Saturday that he is in the running (Betfred odds 50/1).

His previous role as digital, culture, media and sport secretary saw him launch his own app, to some mockery, and he has pushed his digital transformation agenda hard.

Known for being close to George Osborne and David Cameron, he has said the new leader should put the Tories "four square in the centre ground".

Sir Graham Brady

Sir Graham Brady quit as the leader of the 1922 Committee - a position which gave him a significant role in the Prime Minister's departure - on Friday in order to consider a leadership bid (Ladbrokes 20/1).

He told the Press Association: "I have been approached by a number of colleagues across the party both inside and outside Parliament asking me to put myself forward as a candidate."

The MP for Altrincham and Sale West, 52, had chaired the Tory backbench committee for nearly 10 years, having held shadow cabinet positions under Mr Cameron while in opposition.

Dominic Raab

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has refused to rule out standing in a leadership contest and has a semi-official Ready for Raab Twitter account ready for a leadership bid (Coral 6/1).

The 44-year-old MP for Esher and Walton also posed for a classic kitchen photo with his wife in a recent profile in The Sunday Times, showing off the family life of this son of a Czech-born Jewish father.

Mr Raab was a prominent Brexiteer in the referendum campaign and Mrs May appointed him as her second Brexit secretary in July, but he quit the role in November, saying he could not support her eventual deal.

Andrea Leadsom

Former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said she was "seriously considering" running for the Conservative leadership before she quit her role on Wednesday (Betfred 12/1).

Indeed, she was Mrs May's only rival during the 2016 leadership contest, but she withdrew after making badly-received comments about motherhood in a newspaper interview.

The MP for South Northamptonshire, 56, has previously described the UK's continued membership of the EU as "disgusting" and claimed that a Eurosceptic prime minister would have delivered Brexit already.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove has been working to resuscitate trust among colleagues since he wielded the knife against Mr Johnson in the previous leadership contest, despite being his campaign manager (Ladbrokes 10/1).

He withdrew his support on the morning that Mr Johnson was due to declare, and threw his own hat in the ring instead, but trailed behind ultimate winner Mrs May and Mrs Leadsom after the first round of voting.

Since then, he has made some memorable Commons appearances, notably in defence of Mrs May's deal, and has a reputation for mastering complicated briefs.

Penny Mordaunt

Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt became the UK's first female defence secretary at the start of the month, following the sacking of Gavin Williamson (Bet365 20/1).

The 45-year-old Royal Navy reservist has been named by Jacob Rees-Mogg as one of his favoured candidates and has a higher public profile than most due to her 2014 appearance on reality TV show Splash!

MP for Portsmouth North since 2010, she supported Mrs Leadsom in the 2016 Conservative leadership contest.

Sajid Javid

Home secretary Sajid Javid signalled his leadership ambitions by arguing that he wanted the Tories to be the party of social mobility, in an interview with the Spectator (Ladbrokes odds 20/1).

Mr Javid, 49, who backed Remain in the referendum but has since positioned himself as a firm Leaver, became the first home secretary from an ethnic minority background when he was appointed in April 2018.

The son of a Pakistani bus driver from Rochdale, he was a managing director at Deutsche Bank before becoming an MP in 2010.

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