Liz Truss has received a boost in her bid to replace Boris Johnson after she received the backing of former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt.
Trade minister Ms Mordaunt narrowly lost out to Ms Truss for a place in the final two in the Conservative Party leadership race with Rishi Sunak.
Ms Mordaunt opened the latest hustings in Exeter by giving her support to Foreign Secretary Ms Truss, calling her the “hope candidate”.
The Portsmouth North MP said the Conservatives will “short-change the country, we may lose an election” if they get the decision wrong.
She said: “I could have remained undeclared, I could be off sipping pina coladas right now but I’m not because this is too important and I’m not going to leave this to chance.”
Ms Mordaunt noted choosing between the two candidates is hard, adding: “Who can lead? Who can build that team and deliver for our country? Who does have that bold economic plan that our nation needs?
“Who has got reach? Who can relate to people? Who understands that people need help with the cost of living now? And who is going to rightly clobber our opponents?
“Who is going to hold seats and win back councils and who most embodies the vision and values the British public had in their heads and their hearts when they voted in 2016 and 2019?
“At the start of this final phase of this contest, I didn’t know the answer to those questions but I’ve seen enough to know who the person I’m going to put my faith in is – and that is Liz Truss.”
Tory members cheered the announcement, with Ms Mordaunt adding: “Her graft, her authenticity, her determination, her ambition for this country, her consistency and sense of duty – she knows what she believes in, and her resolve to stand up against tyranny and fight for freedom.
Liz Truss (Henry Nicholls/PA)
“That’s what our country stands for and that’s why I know with her we can win.
“And actually seeing her over the last few weeks has made me want to help her, to help her win, to help build the team we need to win the country, and to give ourselves as a party and as a nation the pride and confidence we need to reach our full potential.
“In short folks, to give us all hope. She for me is the hope candidate.”