Norfolk MP rules himself out of leadership attempt after considering bid over weekend

The Future50 EU debate event taking place in Norwich Shirehall. The EDP's Annabelle Dickson hosting

The Future50 EU debate event taking place in Norwich Shirehall. The EDP's Annabelle Dickson hosting George Freeman speaking for REMAIN and Steve Baker speaking for LEAVE. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Norfolk MP George Freeman has ruled himself out of the Conservative leadership contest after considering a bid over the weekend as Tories set their sights on who would succeed David Cameron.

The minister for life sciences, who joined the House of Commons in 2010, was said to have been weighing up standing on a joint ticket with an unnamed female MP.

In a bizarre 24 hours, the Mid-Norfolk MP was named as a runner and rider on the front page of the Sunday Times – but Mr Freeman subsequently ruled himself out of the contest.

Bookies' favourites, home secretary Theresa May and former London major and leading Vote Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, both remained silent over the weekend with only former defence secretary Liam Fox declaring he was considering a run to succeed David Cameron.

Cabinet minister Justine Greening said Mr Johnson and Mrs May should strike a deal to form a 'united leadership' for the country and the Tory party.

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Meanwhile, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine said Mr Johnson, Mr Gove and Mr Farage must be in charge of negotiations with the European Union after the UK voted for Brexit.

He said he was 'appalled' by the result of the referendum as he said voters had been 'sold a fool's promise'.

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And while he said the decision to leave must be respected, the Tory heavyweight stressed the need for Brexit leaders to be held accountable for the promises they made in the run up to June 23.

Following the Sunday Times article which put Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman's name in the frame, Mr Freeman said: 'Last week's Brexit vote has triggered one of the most important moments in our country's recent political history. We are in volatile times.

'Our first priority in government must be to reassure international investors and markets that our economy is strong and stable. But Westminster must also listen to the roar of discontent from voters last week and commit to understand and tackle the range of complex issues – immigration, multiculturalism, housing, local services, fair pay, benefit eligibility and trust in politics – that underpin the wave of anger that the Leave campaign harnessed.

'The 2020 Group of New Generation MPs I founded is committed to setting out a much more radical domestic reform agenda to tackle these issues.

Whilst we have considered running a joint team in a leadership contest to promote this agenda we have decided instead to work with all those who stand to make sure bold new policies are adopted to address these urgent issues.'

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