Jeremy Hunt backs Rishi Sunak for Tory leadership after dropping out of race to be next PM

The Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee announced his support for the former Chancellor this evening

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Jeremy Hunt has pledged his support for former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, in the Tory leadership campaign, after failing to progress to the next round earlier today.

Mr Hunt, who failed to secure the 30 votes needed from Tory MPs to get through Wednesday’s first round of voting, said in a statement: “I’m supporting Rishi Sunak. And that’s for two reasons.

“First of all, the big challenge we face now is economic, and this is someone of formidable ability, who has been thinking about the right thing to do for our economy, for families up and down the country, very hard over the last two years.

“But in the end it’s not about policy. I’ve been around long enough to know that politics is really about character and Rishi is one of the most decent, straight people with the highest standards of integrity that I have ever met in British politics and that’s why I would be proud to have him as my next Prime Minister.”

Jeremy Hunt is a former Cabinet minister
Jeremy Hunt is a former Cabinet minister
Rishi Sunak's leadership bid has been endorsed by Jeremy Hunt
Rishi Sunak's leadership bid has been endorsed by Jeremy Hunt

After dropping out of the leadership contest with 18 votes in the first ballot, Mr Hunt warned the remaining contenders “smears and attacks may bring short-term tactical gain but always backfire long term”.

“A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates: smears & attacks may bring short term tactical gain but always backfire long term,” he tweeted.

“The nation is watching & they’ve had enough of our drama; be the broad church & unbeatable, election winning machine that our country deserves.”

Nadhim Zahawi also failed to obtain the support of 30 MPs, leaving six Tory candidates to battle for the role of leader.

Penny Mordaunt remains the 4/5 odds-on favourite to be the next Tory leader, despite Mr Sunak, 7/2, winning the first leadership ballot on Wednesday evening.

Bookmaker Betfair confirmed that Liz Truss followed swiftly behind Mr Sunak, with odds of 9/2, after the departure of Mr Hunt and Mr Zahawi from the competition.

The second round of voting will commence at 11.30am and close at 13.30pm tomorrow.

The remaining candidates are: Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat.