Conservative Party leadership hopefuls who have “no hope” of winning should drop out now and help “thin” down the crowded field, senior Tory MP Sir Charles Walker has said.
Sir Charles, vice chair of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers during the 2019 contest, said MPs on the current executive could change the rules to limit the number of candidates.
The contest to succeed Boris Johnson has been described by one Tory politician as the “wacky races” – with up to 15 MPs announcing their candidates or preparing to launch a campaign.
“I hope some of the candidates who know they have no hope of leading our party and becoming prime minister actually decide to drop out for the greater good,” Sir Charles told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“A lot of people put them in the shop window in the hope it will secure them a cabinet position,” he added. “We know who they are already – they don’t need to put themselves in the shop window and sort of stretch out the process.”
To take part, candidates need eight nominations. Candidates must then get 5 per cent of the votes to stay in the running – 18 votes – during the first round. They must get 10 per cent, 36 MPs, in the second round.
The candidate with the fewest votes is the eliminated until two candidates remain, a process expected to be done by 21 July. But Sir Charles said rules could be changed so that candidates would have to get a higher level of support at each round to pass.
The 1922 Committee veteran also said the process of selecting a new Tory leader in late July and August could be “truncated” by waving regional hustings.
“Instead of having, say, 10 or 12 regional hustings, the party chair says we’re not having regional hustings, we’re just going to send ballot papers out to the membership,” he said.
Some lesser-known MPs have raised eyebrows by announcing possible leadership bids in the past 48 hours. Rehman Chishti, Tory MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said on Saturday morning he was “actively considering” running for leader.
The newly-appointed Foreign Office minister told BBC: “We need leaders who best reflect modern Britain and can provide solutions to the challenges our nation is facing now.”
And John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, said he was “taking soundings over the weekend” on a possible bid. “I haven’t got my eight signatures yet and that is what is apparently required, though the committee next week will confirm that,” he told Sky News.
Tories are rushing to take sides in the race to become the new prime minister after ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak declared he has set his sights on the top job.
Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch became the fourth candidate to throw her hat into the ring – promising tax cuts and declaring her opposition “identity politics”.
Tom Tugendhat, a moderate from the “one nation” wing, and attorney general Suella Braverman have both picked up several endorsements after launching their campaigns.
Tory MP Jake Berry, leader of the Northern Research Group (NRG) representing MPs in the north of England, has ruled out a leadership bid, saying he would now push candidates to fulfil the “levelling up” agenda.
Despite being a respected figure among many “red wall” MPs elected in 2019, he had struggled to win the support of the group.
Some moderate red-wall MPs have opted for Tom Tugendhat, who is emerging as the leading candidate from the centrist wing of the party. Others have opted for Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi and Kemi Badenoch.
Steve Baker also dropped his ambitions to be leading, backing Ms Braverman’s campaign, saying she could deliver tax cuts and “moral” leadership.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, and defence secretary Ben Wallace, tipped to be a front-runner, are expected to announced their candidacies soon.
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and are also preparing their campaigns, while home secretary Priti Patel, transport secretary Grant Shapps and ex-health secretary Sajid Javid are mulling over bids.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries is also reportedly considering throwing her hat in the ring in a bid to keep Mr Johnson’s flame alive.