Blow for Michael Gove as his deputy backs Jeremy Hunt for Tory leader
Michael's Gove's ministerial deputy has backed rival candidate Jeremy Hunt to be the next Tory leader.
Robert Goodwill said the Foreign Secretary was the only person vying to to succeed Theresa May who he would "trust to lead us out of the EU and unite our party".
Mr Hunt and Mr Gove are two of the main contenders in the race to be the next Prime Minister.
But Mr Goodwill, who has been number two to Mr Gove at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since March, said he believed there was only candidate for the job.
Writing for PoliticsHome's Central Lobby section, he said the party would remain divided until Brexit is delivered.
"What we need now is a Prime Minister who is a proven negotiator, tough enough to face up to those realities, that the EU will do business with, and who can actually deliver a deal that takes us out of the EU, that Parliament will agree to," he said.
"That leader needs a dynamic, reforming, and entrepreneurial Conservative vision that will unite the party and the country behind them and stop the Marxists from ever taking power. That is why I’m backing Jeremy Hunt to be our next leader and Prime Minister.
"He is the only candidate who has the experience and ability to square this circle, unite the party, and take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn."
In a blow for Mr Gove's bid for the top job, the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, added: "As a whip, immigration minister, minister in the Department for Transport, and now as the number two at Defra, I have worked closely with a number of the leadership candidates. And there is only one I would trust to lead us out of the EU and unite our party.
"Other candidates might not like dealing in cold hard facts but do they really want to lead us into a general election on a platform of broken promises? If not, they need to be clear about what they would do differently beyond wishing for a deal. If they can’t do that, then they aren’t credible candidates for the role."
When the Environment Secretary entered the Tory leadership race he said that "you can always discern a lot from someone’s record but the real thing is the people with whom you have worked".