Jeremy Hunt battles Michael Gove to be top challenger to Boris Johnson

Jeremy Hunt has set himself up as the leading challenger to Boris Johnson after securing two key endorsements in 24 hours.

The Foreign Secretary won the backing of Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Secretary, at his campaign launch, after the Work and Pensions Secretary gave him her support on Sunday.

Mr Hunt is now just three behind Michael Gove in terms of the number of endorsements from MPs, just as the Environment Secretary’s campaign falters over the revelation that he took cocaine despite attacking middle-class drug use in newspaper articles.

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Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is running to become the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister

Mr Hunt signaled he could extend Brexit beyond October 31 if an agreement was in sight, saying that “any Prime Minister who promised to leave by a certain date would have to call a general election to change the parliamentary arithmetic, and that is an election we would lose badly.

"If we fight an election before delivering Brexit we will be annihilated.

"Squeezed by the Brexit Party on the right and the Lib Dems on the left. We will simply allow Labour through the middle.

"And, if that happened nationally it would be the end of Brexit."

"Our new Prime Minister will preside over a hung Parliament. A serious moment calls for a serious leader."

Mr Hunt also unveiled a new campaign video featuring supporters including author and Olympic table tennis player Matthew Syed, who praised the Cabinet minister's "unwavering commitment to getting results".