- Matt Hancock drops out of the Tory leadership race.
- The health secretary is said to be considering backing Cabinet rivals Jeremy Hunt or Michael Gove.
- Hancock came sixth in the first round of voting in the Tory leadership contest on Thursday.
LONDON – Matt Hancock has withdrawn from the race to become prime minister, announcing on Friday that he would not be contesting the second round of the Conservative leadership contest.
“I ran as the candidate of the future, but the Party is understandably looking for a candidate for the unique circumstances we face right now,” he said in a statement.
“I have therefore decided to withdraw from this contest, and I will look for the best way to advance the values we fought for, of free enterprise, and an open, aspirational, free society, underpinned by an optimistic belief in the value of each individual person.
“I will talk to all the other candidates about how these values can be best taken forward.”
The health secretary was one of seven candidates left in the race to replace Theresa May, who steps down as prime minister in July, but did not appear to have backing of enough colleagues to progress further in the contest.
He secured just 20 votes from colleagues in the first ballot on Thursday, coming sixth, and appeared unlikely to be able to secure the 33 votes necessary to progress through the second round of voting next week.
The frontrunner, Boris Johnson, secured a massive 114 votes from colleagues, meaning the rivals who trail him appear to be scrapping for second place.
It was reported on Thursday that Hancock was considering dropping out of the race to back one of Johnson’s rivals and narrow his lead, and is said to be likeliest to back Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, or Michael Gove, the environment secretary.
He is also reported to have met with leadership candidate Sajid Javid, the home secretary, on Thursday but the meeting does not appear to have been conclusive.
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