The hardline Brexiteer Steve Baker has revealed he is weighing up whether to stand in the Tory leadership race.
The former Brexit minister claims to have “a degree of support” from across the country he “could never have foreseen”, including from Conservative MPs.
He told the BBC, just moments before May’s emotional resignation speech was broadcast, that “out of respect” for those encouraging him to stand, he felt duty bound to consider it.
Baker, deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of backbench Tory Eurosceptics, was among the first MPs to demand May resign last year and appeared to position himself as the hardline candidate.
“The two frontrunners are very clearly Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab,” he admitted. “I think the have complimentary talents. There is no point shying away from it, people have been asking me to stand. I have had a degree of support from across the country that I could never have foreseen.
“I have also had some MPs asking me to stand but I need to face up to the challenge of taking a decision on whether I should do it.
“I need to talk to the other candidates and I will need to reach a decision myself but obviously, while I am mulling that over, I could not back another candidate.”
The race to replace May is already a crowded field, with Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Esther McVey and Matt Hancock among the many MPs expected to stand.
May has revealed she will stand down on June 7. She will remain as PM while a successor is chosen among Tory MPs.
Baker pointed out he had refused to back May’s deal at the third time of asking, unlike his potential rivals, Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Asked if he would stand, he said: “It is conceivable, yes. It has come about because the third presentation of this deal, Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab and indeed David Davis and Esther McVey voted for and I did not and the combination of that and come if I say so myself, that degree I have provided to colleagues now for years, adamant that some colleagues said I should consider it from outside parliament, and I have had a lot of pressure to say I should stand.
“Obviously, I must consider it out of respect for those colleagues and members of the public.”