MP withdraws from race to become next prime minister just a week after entering

James Cleverly, MP for Braintree. Picture: JAMES CLEVERLY

James Cleverly, MP for Braintree. Picture: JAMES CLEVERLY - Credit: Archant

James Cleverly has withdrawn from the race to become the next prime minister, scarcely a week after announcing his candidature.

The MP for Braintree, whose constituency includes Great Bardfield, Rayne, and Finchingfield, announced on Tuesday that he would not be submitting his nomination papers to the party after it became "clear" that there was not enough support from within the party for his bid.

Some 11 Conservative MPs are vying for the top job, with Mr Cleverly, aged 49, and Kit Malthouse, the MP for North West Hampshire, having pulled out of the race.

Mr Cleverly said: "I felt that we needed to deliver Brexit and then quickly move the conversation onto other important issues that face the country. I had hoped that the Conservative parliamentary party would support me to be the face and voice of that conversation.

"To do this I asked them to make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP. It is clear that despite much support, particularly from our own party's grassroots, MPs weren't comfortable with such a move and it has become clear that it is highly unlikely that I would progress to be the final two candidates.

"For this reason I have withdrawn from the process of selecting a new leader and will not be submitting nomination papers."

The remaining MPs in the race to succeed Theresa May as prime minister are: Sam Gyimah, Mark Harper, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid.

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Mr Cleverly only announced his candidature last Wednesday (May 29), declaring that Brexit "must be delivered", while calling for unity in the Conservative party.

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."