Michael Gove campaign chief begs Theresa May supporters to back his man in bizarre text message
Michael Gove's campaign chief has begged Theresa May's supporters not to give their backing to Andrea Leadsom in tomorrow's crunch Tory leadership ballot - because he is "frightened" she could end up Prime Minister.
In a bizarre text message to fellow Tory MPs, Nick Boles said they "must work together" to stop Ms Leadson being one of the two candidates on the ballot paper being sent to party members.
He said he feared that Conservative activists could choose her over Mrs May "like they did with IDS" - a reference to Iain Duncan Smith's ill-starred time in charge of the party.
Mr Boles even said Michael Gove "doesn't mind spending 2 months taking a good thrashing from Theresa" before the winner is announced in September if it meant Ms Leadsom was eliminated.
The text message emerged as Tory MPs prepare for the second round of voting in the race to succeed David Cameron. Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb have already dropped out.
While Mrs May has a commanding lead over Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, some of her supporters are expected to switch to her rivals in tomorrow's vote.
Ms Leadsom's supporters fear she is a victim of "dirty tricks" aimed at ensuring her fellow Brexit campaigner Mr Gove goes up against Mrs May in the final run-off.
Meanwhile, former Tory chairman Grant Shapps has called for the leadership contest to be cut short so the new Prime Minister is in place by the end of the month.
In a letter to current party chairman Lord Feldman he said the "unprecedented times" meant the race should be curtailed. Mr Shapps has also written to MPs in other parties urging them to back him.
He said: "Clearly there will be a desire for the final two leadership candidates to set out their platform to members and the country. Given the national urgency in making this final leadership decision, I believe that these hustings should be held over a three week period, during which time members can also cast their ballots.
"This is the same timetable provided to British overseas voters in general elections, but with the added speed advantage that in party leadership elections, members are also able to vote online.
"We are living through unprecedented times and, unusually, this leadership election is occurring whilst we are in office; meaning that we are electing a Prime Minister. The country desperately needs post-Brexit direction in order to avoid a political vacuum bearing serious consequences for all those we represent.
"In the light of the unexpectedly fast decision on the final two names, I ask that the board of the party meet to consider significantly shortening the process in order that a new Prime Minister can provide the leadership this country so urgently needs."