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Race for prime minister heats up as Tories rush to take sides

Race for prime minister heats up as Tories rush to take sides

T

ories are rushing to take sides in the race to become the new prime minister after Rishi Sunak declared he has set his sights on the top job.

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch is said to be the latest to throw her hat into the ring, with a plan for a smaller state and a government “focused on the essentials”.

Meanwhile former minister Steve Baker has backed Attorney General Suella Braverman’s campaign – despite previously saying he was seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also widely expected to run for leader.

Mr Baker had told the PA news agency that Tory blog ConservativeHome “consistently put me in their top 10 for next prime minister, they sometimes put me in their top five”, but said it would be “very difficult” to persuade colleagues to back him for the party-wide ballot without Cabinet experience.

On Friday evening, he tweeted: “I considered standing for the leadership. My priorities were delivering against our manifesto with our mandate, cutting taxes and seeing through Brexit.

“Happily I no longer need to stand. @SuellaBraverman will deliver these priorities and more.”

Earlier, Mr Sunak announced his bid for leader on Twitter, saying: “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.”

His move came as allies of former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was runner-up to Boris Johnson in 2019, said he was “virtually certain” to stand again this time.

Mr Sunak has the backing of Commons Leader Mark Spencer, former Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, and ex-minister Liam Fox.

The Times reported that Ms Badenoch was launching her campaign with a pledge to radically reduce the size and influence of the state.

She would preside over a “limited government focused on the essentials”, the newspaper said.

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