Ben Wallace has torn into his colleagues who walked out on Boris Johnson, saying he did not want the prime minister to go.
The defence secretary has thrown his support behind Liz Truss and criticised Rishi Sunak for “walking out the door” of Johnson’s cabinet.
Wallace said some ministers did not have the “luxury” of walking out “because fundamentally we have duties and obligations”.
Sunak was the second cabinet minister to resign, after Sajid Javid, before dozens of ministers followed suit and forced Johnson to quit.
Wallace told Sky News: “I have to take responsibility on operational authorities and decisions around our forces around the world. So I can’t just sort of junk it all in and walk out the door.”
Asked if he would have liked to have walked out, Wallace replied: “I didn’t want Boris Johnson to go. I wouldn’t have thought that was the way to do it.”
He said colleagues who wanted to express their lack of confidence should have done it via the 1922 backbench committee.
“I just don’t think triggering cabinet ministers walking out at a time of a crisis is the right course of action,” he said.
“There were other mechanisms to do what they wanted. If Rishi Sunak didn’t want the prime minister to be prime minister, there are other mechanisms to do that. And that goes for all the other ministers.”
Asked if former chancellor Sunak had left the country in the lurch, Wallace replied: “Let’s look at that Friday afternoon, what if the markets had crashed? What if the home secretary had done that and there was a terrorist attack? What would the public think? They would never forgive us for that.
“I don’t think people needed to walk out. Public would see that as a government not thinking about the job in hand. I think there were many other opportunities if they wanted to do it in a different way.”
Speaking to The Sun, Wallace described the foreign secretary as “authentic, honest and experienced” with the “integrity” for the top job.
He also wrote in The Times that Truss was “a winner not because she’s a slick salesperson but because she is authentic”.
The major boost for Truss’s campaign came after she and Sunak faced a grilling from voters in the first official hustings with Tory members in Leeds.
They were quizzed separately on a vast array of policy areas as they sought to woo northern voters in the race for the top job.
There was applause over the suggestion that Johnson could be on the ballot while Sunak was accused by an audience member of having “stabbed him in the back”.
The event, hosted by LBC, was the first of 12 sessions across the country to question the final two contenders, before voting closes on September 2.
While they did not address one another directly, tax continued to be a significant dividing line between the pair.