Boost for Rory Stewart as Deputy PM David Lidington backs his Tory leadership bid
Rory Stewart's bid to be the next Conservative leader has been given a major boost after David Lidington announced he was supporting him.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - effectively Theresa May's deputy - announced he was backing his Cabinet colleague after his previous favourite, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pulled out of the race.
A spokeswoman for Mr Stewart said: “Rory is incredibly proud to have the support of David Lidington - the Deputy Prime Minister.
"It's a huge vote of confidence not just in Rory's campaign, but in his ability to deliver as Prime Minister."
Tory MPs will hold a second leadership ballot on Tuesday, with the six remaining candidates needing at least 33 votes go through to the next round of the contest.
Mr Stewart, the International Development Secretary, made it through first ballot with 19 votes, just two votes over the threshold to avoid being knocked out.
Speaking at an evening rally for Mr Stewart in London, Mr Lidington said: "I am endorsing Rory Stewart to be the next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party.
"I think that there is a yearning in this country for political leaders who tell it straight to people, who are honest about the difficulties and challenges that lie ahead, as well as the policies and the remedies that they are proposing.
"And I also think that there is a yearning in this country for political leaders who are willing to listen, who are prepared to get out of the comfort zone and out of the Westminster bubble."
Other former supporters of Mr Hancock’s campaign, such as Margot James and Paul Masterton, have come out in favour of Mr Stewart as the race whittles down the rivals.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood also announced at the weekend that he was backing Mr Stewart.
However, he still faces a huge challenge in his attempts to see off rivals Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab to make it through to the final run-off, where they are all-but certain to face Boris Johnson.
On Monday, Mr Stewart told lobby journalists that he had 33 MPs to secure him a spot in the next round, "if they do what they say".
Results for the second ballot are expected to be announced at 6pm on Tuesday.