Rishi Sunak has bolstered his claim to be the unity candidate in the race for the Conservative leadership by securing the support of champion of the right Suella Braverman.
Meanwhile, foreign secretary James Cleverly came out in favour of Boris Johnson, who he has b een closely allied with since his time as mayor of London.
Mr Cleverly said that the former prime minister had “learned lessons” since being forced out of office in the wake of the Partygate affair.
The declarations of support came after Mr Sunak formally threw his hat into the ring to succeed Liz Truss as PM. The former chancellor now has public declarations of support from 146 Tory MPs – well beyond the 100 threshold required to stand in the contest – while Mr Johnson lags behind on 60, though supporters claim that private nominations have already taken him past the 100 target.
Ms Braverman had been thought to be mulling a bid for the leadership herself after she resigned from Ms Truss’s government following rows over her desire to get immigration below 100,000. It had been thought she was likely to endorse Mr Johnson if she did not stand.
But she today told the Daily Telegraph: “I have backed Boris from the start.
“But we are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.”
Meanwhile, Mr Cleverly – who backed Ms Truss in this summer’s contest – announced his support for his former mentor in a tweet.
“The last few weeks show that being PM is tough and no other job in government is quite like it,” said the foreign secretary.
“I know Boris has learned lessons from his time in No10 and will ensure the focus is on the needs of the country from day one. I will be supporting him to return to the role of PM.
“We can all see the enormity of the challenges we face, from the war in Ukraine to growing our economy. To address these we have to support whoever becomes the next PM and work tirelessly on behalf of the British people.”