Andrea Leadsom favourite to take on Theresa May for Tory leadership


Tory leadership contenders are continuing to vie for support among MPs as Andrea Leadsom became the favourite to take on front-runner Theresa May.

The Energy Minister is odds-on to become the Home Secretary's rival on the ballot paper that will decide Britain's next prime minister.

And in a swipe at Mrs May, the Brexit-backer said the new leader "must be a Leave supporter" rather than someone "who is reluctantly following the wishes of the people".

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph Mrs Leadsom said: "I think it's very difficult for somebody who doesn't agree with that, who is reluctantly following the wishes of the people. I think it's quite hard for them to really see the opportunities.

"I genuinely believe that if we want to make a go of it then we need somebody who believes in it."

Michael Gove has failed so far to secure widespread, high-profile support in the wake of his shock manoeuvring, which forced then front-runner Boris Johnson to pull out of the contest.

The Justice Secretary declared himself "the candidate for change" as he set out his pitch to take the keys to No 10 with a speech protesting he had never wanted to become prime minister.

Mrs Leadsom said the debacle had been a "real tragedy" but kept open the possibility of taking both men into the Cabinet if she won.

She told the newspaper: "I got to know Michael and Boris during the campaign and I think both of them were absolutely committed to Leave.

"And I just think it's a real tragedy. I feel really sad about what's happened. Particularly that Boris isn't standing."

She added: "I'm really sorry about what's happened. I don't really understand it but I'm really surprised and sorry about it.

"It would be important to have key people who were able to be competent and also believe in the project. But I'm definitely not thinking that far ahead right now."

MPs begin to vote to whittle down the list of candidates, which also includes Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and former frontbencher Liam Fox, in consecutive rounds of voting starting next week.

The MP with the least support is eliminated each time until only a final pair remain. The membership chooses between the two in a one-member-one-vote postal ballot.