Two outsiders in the race to become the next prime minister have dropped out as the Conservative party tightened its rules in a bid bring a sprawling leadership contest under control.
James Cleverly and Kit Malthouse said they were pulling out of the race, admitting they had failed to attract enough support.
Mr Cleverly’s announcement came hours before the backbench 1922 Committee fixed the rules for the leadership election. There had been concern at the size of the leadership field, which reached 13 candidates over the weekend.
Tory MPs were asked “to make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP”, said Mr Cleverly, who entered Parliament in 2015. “It is clear that... MPs weren’t comfortable with such a move.” Later, Mr Malthouse said he was a “realist” and that “there is an appetite for this contest to be over quickly”.
The 1922 ruled that candidates must have support from eight MPs to enter the contest. They will need 5 per cent of the vote in the first ballot of Tory MPs, and 10 per cent in the second, to remain in the race.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt won a Cabinet endorsement from International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.