Rishi Sunak’s fading hopes of becoming Tory leader have been dealt yet another blow after Tom Tugendhat announced he was backing Liz Truss.
The former leadership contender said the foreign secretary has “shown what I’m looking for in a leader” as he endorsed her bid to become prime minister.
His announcement came just 24 hours after defence secretary Ben Wallace said he was also supporting Truss.
With Sunak already trailing his rival by more than 20 points among Conservative members, the heavyweight endorsements further increase the chances of Truss succeeding Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street.
Writing in The Times, Tugendhat said: “After listening to the arguments and seeing the battle of ideas, I’m backing Liz Truss.
“There are more twists and turns to come in this contest, no doubt, but she’s shown what I’m looking for in a leader.”
He added: “We need a leader to unite the Conservative Party. It’s clear that Liz can do that. Both candidates have huge qualities and many talents, but we need a leader with the foreign-affairs experience to build alliances and keep our country safe.”
Tugendhat also backed Truss’s plans for immediate tax cuts, and took a swipe at Sunak’s record as chancellor.
“Liz’s plan for the economy is founded on true Conservative principles of low tax, a lean state and bold supply-side reform.,” he said. “It is not right that we have the highest tax burden in 70 years at a time of sluggish growth and rising energy prices.”
Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, is a member of the One Nation Caucus of moderate Tory MPs, meaning Truss is managing to attract support from across the party.
The Tonbridge and Malling MP added: “Liz has always stood up for British values at home, and abroad.
“With her at the helm, I have no doubt that we will move with determination to make this country safer and more secure.”
The result of the leadership contest will not be known until September 5, but it will now take an almighty upset for Sunak to win.
In the latest in a series of mis-steps, he has been mocked for describing himself as his party’s “most northern chancellor in 70-odd years” despite being from Southampton.
He also admitted in an interview with Andrew Neil that he had been “silly” to once claim he had no working class friends.