James Cleverly has become the first candidate to withdraw from the leadership election. He announced the decision in a letter to his local paper, the same place where he announced his intention to run.
In the letter, he concedes that his argument to his colleagues that they should “make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP” had not convinced enough of them to support him.
Pressure has grown in recent days for the field to thin out (by voluntary withdrawals) or be thinned out (by rule changes of one sort or another). With Cleverly withdrawing, the question will now inevitably be put to some of the other candidates as to whether they will follow suit.
Here is his withdrawal letter in full:
Last week I let you know first that I intended to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister.
I felt that we needed to deliver Brexit and then quickly move the conversation on to other important issues that face the country. I had hoped that the Conservative parliamentary party would support me to be the face and voice of that conversation.
To do this I asked them to make a leap of faith, skip a generation and vote for a relatively new MP. It is clear that despite much support, particularly from our party’s grassroots, MPs weren’t comfortable with such a move and it has become clear that it is highly unlikely that I would progress to be the final two candidates.
For this reason I have withdrawn from the process of selecting a new leader and will not be submitting nomination papers.
Once again I want to thank you for the support that you give me as your local MP.
MP for Braintree