Braintree MP James Cleverly joins race to become next prime minister

Braintree MP James Cleverly has launched his bid to become prime minister.

Cleverely, who Braintree constituency includes Rayne, Finchingfield and Great Bardfield, is the 11th candidate to put himself forward as the next leader of the Conservative party, after Theresa May announced she will will stand down on June 7.

In an open letter Mr Cleverly, a junior minister in the Brexit department, thanked his constituents for "providing the foundation" upon which he can make his bid.

In the letter, which is addressed to constituents and has been published by the Braintree & Witham Times, Mr Cleverly turned to Brexit first of all. He said: "Both the country, and my party, are beset with division. We cannot bring the country back together unless the party of government is united, and the party cannot unite if it is led from its fringes. Brexit must be delivered,"

He went on: "It would be best for the UK to leave the EU with some form of deal, and the EU must now recognise the need for flexibility as the current deal has been rejected by our parliament. It is my job in Government is to oversee preparations for a no-deal Brexit. That this is not my preferred choice, but if it must happen, I am ready to lead through what may be difficult and un-charted waters. I have never ducked tough political decisions."

Mr Cleverly said remaining was not "an acceptable option" and a second referendum is "shorthand for Remain".

Going on, he said: "Until we deliver Brexit we will not be listened to or trusted by voters. Once it has been delivered, we better have something more inspiring to say than "more of the same". To inspire the British people we need to look different, sound different, and offer something new.

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I believe I can do that.

"We need to tackle the social problems that are dividing us, we need to have fresh ideas for the future. We need to ensure business thrives in every part of our country, providing good jobs, paying for world class public services. We need to make sure those people who feel they don't have a voice are listened to by politicians, and that politicians then act and fulfil their promises.

"Politics like this will benefit the country as a whole and those who live and work in my wonderful Braintree constituency."

He finished: "I hope if my colleagues see fit to grant me the opportunity to serve them, and the country, you will also see the bright future that we can build for Braintree and Britain.