Newly-appointed chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has thrown his hat into the ring for Tory leader, joining his predecessor Rishi Sunak, and becoming the second Cabinet minister to declare their ambition in the space of an hour.
The former education secretary becomes the third serving Government minister to kick off their campaign for the leadership, after Grant Shapps and attorney general Suella Braverman declared their intentions.
Earlier, defence secretary Ben Wallace said that after “careful consideration” and discussion with colleagues and family, he would not stand to be party leader and the next prime minister.
In addition to Zahawi, Shapps, Sunak, and Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have launched their own bids, with further announcements anticipated over the coming days.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss is widely expected to stand, while other potential front-runners include trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former health secretaries Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.
Launching his campaign, Zahawi pledged to lower taxes for individuals, families and business, boost defence spending, and continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role.
Born in Iraq to a Kurdish family, the new chancellor came to the UK as a nine-year-old when his parents fled the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Believed to be one of the richest politicians in the House of Commons, he helped found polling company YouGov after studying chemical engineering at University College London.
He has often said that his own personal backstory has deeply influenced his view of Britain and he recently spoke of the debt he owed poet Philip Larkin as he improved his English as a teenager.
He has had something of a tumultuous week – first being promoted to chancellor following Sunak’s resignation on Tuesday, then defending Johnson during a gruelling broadcast round on Wednesday, before publicly calling for him to stand down on Thursday morning.
In his bid for leader, Zahawi said: “My aim is a simple one: to provide the opportunities that were afforded to my generation, to all Britons, whoever you are and wherever you come from. To steady the ship and to stabilise the economy.
“Thanks to Brexit, we are now a free nation. Let’s not just talk about the opportunities that follow, let’s take them.
“If a young boy, who came here aged 11 without a word of English, can serve at the highest levels of Her Majesty’s Government and run to be the next prime minister, anything is possible.”
He added that he wants to “focus on letting children be children, protecting them from damaging and inappropriate nonsense being forced on them by radical activists”.
Meanwhile, Zahawi’s predecessor Sunak announced his bid for leader on Twitter on Friday afternoon, saying: “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.”
As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they “don’t knock lumps out of each other”.
Following elections to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee on Monday, the new body will draw up a timetable for the leadership election.