Final Tory leadership showdown between two white men would be a big mistake, says contender

Education secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Education secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The race to be the next Conservative leader must not come down to a battle between two white men, Nicky Morgan has said.

The education secretary and equalities minister, who has previously said she would consider running to be party leader when Prime Minister David Cameron steps down, said her party must practice what it preaches in selecting a new leader.

'I thought it was interesting this weekend, the prime minister was talking about diversity in university applications and saying our top institutions, not just universities but the armed forces and police and others, need to have diversity at the top. What I would probably say is that it would be a big mistake, when we get to it, if the two people the party offers up as potential leadership candidates are white men.

'I have said before that I think it would be great to have a women there - it might be me, it might be somebody else - but I think there are other great candidates and we ourselves have to practice what we want which is to have diversity at the top.'

Questioned on whether she thought the final two MPs put to the party could be two white women she said she thought that was 'unlikely'. 'But as women's minister that would be I think good,' she said. Some Conservatives are reportedly pushing for a change in the rules to allow three candidates to make it onto the final ballot paper which goes to members.

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London mayor Boris Johnson and chancellor George Osborne are both said to be eyeing the top job.

Questioned on whether that was a change she would like to see, Mrs Morgan: 'I have learned a number of things in parliament, one of them is never to fiddle the 1922 executive [the committee of backbench MPs] who set the rules of things like leadership. 'It is completely up to them to decide on how many they want. It is completely up to them to decide how many people they want to put to the parliamentary party and then the party at large. I think we have lots of talent in the cabinet, lots of talent in the ministerial ranks, lots of talent on the backbenches and a really good intake of MPs in 2015, so I hope there will be a big choice.'

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