Matt Hancock considering pulling out of Tory leadership race

Matt Hancock in front of the Old Custom House in Ipswich.

Matt Hancock in front of the Old Custom House in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

One of the region's MPs is understood to be considering pulling out of the race for the Tory leadership, as the remaining candidates consider how best to challenge frontrunner Boris Johnson.

It is thought health secretary Matt Hancock, who is also West Suffolk MP, could make a decision within hours, after getting 20 votes in the first ballot of Conservative MPs.

That left him in sixth place in the race, well behind Mr Johnson on 114.

The top two left after further ballots will be voted on by party members.

It is thought Mr Hancock is considering pulling out of the race to support another candidate with a better chance of winning the 33 votes needed to get past the next round.

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The Times reported Mr Hancock met Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, but the meeting appears not to have resulted in any agreement and Mr Hancock is now thought to be more likely to back Mr Gove or Mr Hunt.

Mr Johnson received more than double the number of votes of his nearest rival - Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt - putting him well on course to secure one of those two spots.

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Three contenders - Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey - were knocked out of the contest on Thursday.

But it is not yet clear which candidate their supporters will now give their votes to instead.

The former London mayor and foreign secretary said he was "delighted" to win the opening battle but warned that his campaign still had "a long way to go".

The seven remaining candidates progress to the next round of voting next Tuesday, unless any of them choose to withdraw between now and then.

Speaking after the results were announced, Mr Hunt said: "Boris did well today but what the result shows is, when it comes to the members' stage, I'm the man to take him on."

Further ballots are scheduled to take place on 18, 19 and 20 June to whittle down the contenders until only two are left.

The final pair will then be put to a vote of members of the wider Conservative Party from 22 June, with the winner expected to be announced about four weeks later.

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