John Major has warned it would be “unwise” for Boris Johnson to remain in office while his successor is chosen.
In a letter to the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 committee, the former Conservative prime minister said Dominic Raab could be an acting PM until a new leader was elected.
Johnson announced he was stepping down on Thursday morning after more than 50 Tory MPs resigned from his government.
In his resignation speech in Downing Street, Johnson said he believed it was “eccentric” for the party to have moved against him but “them’s the breaks”.
However his plan to stay on as caretaker PM until October has triggered a backlash from Tory MPs who want him to leave sooner.
Adding his voice to the unrest, Major said: “The proposal for the prime minister to remain in office – for up to three months – having lost the support of his Cabinet, his government and his parliamentary party is unwise, and may be unsustainable.
“In such a circumstance the prime minister maintains the power of patronage and, of even greater concern, the power to make decisions which will affect the lives of those within all four nations of the United Kingdom and further afield.
“Some will argue that his new Cabinet will restrain him. I merely note that his previous Cabinet did not – or could not – do so.”
Major said either Raab should serve as interim PM or Tory MPs could elect the new leader who would become prime minister, with party members then asked to endorse the decision.
“Neither of these options is ideal, but the interests of the country must be given priority over all else and, with so many long-term and critical issues before us, an imaginative response even at the risk of some bruised feelings within the party – is most definitely in the national interest.” he said.
The Tory leadership contest is already unofficially under way. MPs will whittle down the candidates to a final two through a balloting process, with party members then voting on who they would prefer