The battle to replace Theresa May intensified today with a warning that the Conservatives are doomed unless they choose a new leader who can appeal to Metropolitan Britain.
A string of current and former Cabinet ministers paraded their credentials as potential successors to the Prime Minister as she left Westminster for a walking holiday in Wales.
Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson clashed with speeches and interviews setting out their core values.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab bet on his ability to overtake the frontrunners, referencing Game Of Thrones in a tweet. I’m not alone in backing Arya, he said. It’s never the favourite.
But the first solid endorsement of the day was for another dark horse cantering up from the back, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock was hailed as the best candidate to unite the country and stem long-term Tory decline in the cities.
Stephen Hammond, health minister and former party vice-chairman for London, told the Evening Standard that it was time for a “generational shift” of the kind that saw David Cameron leapfrog older rivals in 2005.
We are electing a prime minister, not just a party leader, and we also want someone who can lead the Tories for five years and beyond, what ever the result of the next general election, Mr Hammond said.
Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson used his weekly Daily Telegraph column to broaden his appeal beyond the Brexiteers with a promise that a pent up tide of Tory ideas on other issues will flood the country once Britain is out of the EU.
But digital minister Margot James said she would not serve under Mr Johnson if he became Tory leader. Asked if she would stay in the party if someone who supports a hard Brexit became leader, Ms James told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: I have already said I wouldn’t serve under Boris Johnson. Not just because of his Brexit views, but because of his performance as foreign secretary as well which I felt really let the country down.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond mocked the failed bids to beat Mrs May in 2016 by Mr Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove as an unintended suicide pact.