Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith backs Boris Johnson to deliver Brexit and save party
Boris Johnson is the "right person" to take Britain out of the European Union and save the Tories from "destruction", Iain Duncan Smith has said as he backed his bid to be party leader.
The veteran Brexiteer and former Conservative leader said Mr Johnson could capture a "mood of optimism" and "restore our own belief in the British people".
The endorsement came as Mr Johnson continued to be the clear frontrunner in the race to succeed Theresa May in Number 10.
At a hustings on Monday night organised by the right-wing 92 Group of Tory MPs, Mr Johnson received 34 votes, well clear of nearest challenger Dominic Raab on 18 votes. Meanwhile, Michael Gove and Esther McVey received just six votes each.
Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Duncan Smith warned his Conservative colleagues that they would be "the architects of our own destruction" if Brexit was not delivered.
"We are in the last chance saloon of politics," he said. "By failing to leave the EU on March 29 as promised, we broke trust with the British people and history shows us that the consequences for political parties when that happens are dire."
Endorsing Mr Johnson, Mr Duncan Smith declared: "I believe of all the candidates he is the most likely to deliver on the requirement to leave the EU by 31 October.
"He has grasped that imperative. While there are other good candidates standing, too many speak of how damaging this would be. How, I wonder, will the EU take their discussions seriously if they see frightened negotiators from the UK sitting in front of them?"
The ex-Tory leader said Mr Johnson's time as London mayor showed he was "capable of also capturing a mood of optimism for too long missing" in politics.
JOHNSON 'THE ANTIDOTE'
The endorsement from Mr Duncan Smith came as justice minister Robert Buckland and work and pensions minister Justin Tomlinson also declared their support for Mr Johnson, who is among 10 candidates now vying for the Conservative leadership.
Writing for ConservativeHome, the pair said they had "seen at close quarters" Mr Johnson's ability to "speak warmly and directly to the public and to reach people to whom politics is remote and often irrelevant".
And they added: "At a time when we seem to be hearing more from the extremes of politics than ever before, Boris Johnson will provide the antidote to this."
The fresh endorsements came after Mr Johnson's rivals for the Conservative leadership trained their fire on his pledge to cut taxes for higher earners.
The former Cabinet minister came under attack after he pledged to increase the threshold at which workers start paying the 40p rate from £50,000 to £80,000 - a move that would reportedly cost around £9.6bn a year.
Speaking ahead of his own campaign launch on Tuesday, leadership contender Rory Stewart will warn his rivals against handing out "cheap electoral bribes" and making "spending and tax cut promises that we can’t keep".