James Cleverly joins Tory leadership race with pitch for 'complete refresh' of party
Brexit minister James Cleverly has promised to offer a "complete refresh" of the Conservative party as he joined the race to become its next leader.
The Tories' former deputy chairman told local paper the Braintree and Witham Times that the Conservatives needed to "look new and sound different" to survive.
And he vowed not to "duck" a no-deal Brexit if necessary as he became the 11th Conservative to launch a bid to succeed to Theresa May.
"I think two things need to happen if there is going to be real change," he said.
"Firstly, we need to deliver Brexit. I campaigned to leave from the very start and always believed we are better off outside the EU. We need a leader of the Conservative Party who truly believes in the opportunity Brexit presents.
“Once Brexit is delivered, we then need to think about how we can make the Conservatives look new and sound different.
“From the politics we have seen in the last two years, it is clear it needs a complete refresh.
“We need a change and I believe I am the right person to deliver that change."
In a letter to his constituents in Braintree, Mr Cleverly hit out at some of his Tory colleagues for offering what he called "artificially simple solutions" to the debate over Britain's exit from the bloc.
But he made clear that he too would be willing to contemplate a no-deal exit from the European Union - even though that would not be his "preferred choice".
"It would be best for the UK to leave the EU with some form of deal, and the EU must now recognise the need for flexibility as the current deal has been rejected by our Parliament," he said.
"It is my job in government to oversee preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
"That this is not my preferred choice, but if it must happen, I am ready to lead through what may be difficult and un-charted waters.
"I have never ducked tough political decisions."
Mr Cleverly joins an already-crowded field of Tory contenders, with housing minister Kit Malthouse and Home Secretary Sajid Javid this week joining a race that already includes ex-Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey alongside Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.