Jeremy Hunt has confirmed he will stand to be leader of the Conservative Party just hours after Theresa May gave an emotional speech announcing her resignation.
The foreign secretary told the audience at the Haslemere Festival in his Surrey constituency that he intended to run to be prime minister, his local office confirmed.
Mr Hunt has become the first senior Tory out of the blocks since Ms May declared she would stand aside, joining Boris Johnson, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart who have already said they will run.
“I’ll make the announcement on my own candidacy at the appropriate time,” Mr Hunt also told his local newspaper, the Farnham Herald.
“I think this is a day to remember Theresa May and her duty, her sense of public service, the fact that she has done an incredibly difficult job with enormous integrity, and I think that’s what people up and down the county will be thinking today.”
t comes after the prime minister announced she would step down on 7 June, surrendering the job that had been the “honour of my life to hold”.
In a statement in Downing Street, Ms May said it was in the “best interests of the country” for a new prime minister to lead efforts to deliver Brexit.
Her voice cracked, as she said: “I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female prime minister but certainly not the last.
“I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited image
Her departure will trigger a potentially torrid Conservative leadership contest from 10 June, with the next prime minister expected to be in place in the summer.
Mr Johnson is widely regarded as the frontrunner but Mr Hunt, 52, could also be a serious contender in the race.
He campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum, so could be a more moderate Brexit candidate than Mr Johnson or Dominic Raab.
Mr Hunt was health secretary for five years, where he presided over the junior doctors strike but also secured £20bn for the NHS on its 70th anniversary last year.
The South West Surrey MP backed Ms May in the last contest rather than standing himself and he was one of the last cabinet members she met in Downing Street.
It comes as Sir Graham Brady stood down as chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee and admitted he was “considering” running to be leader.
He said “I have been approached by a number of colleagues across the party both inside and outside parliament asking me to put myself forward as a candidate.Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent Minds
“Therefore I have taken the decision to stand down from the position of chairman of the 1922 Committee in order to ensure a fair and transparent election process.
“I am considering the approaches I have received and will make a further statement in due course. I informed Number 10 and the chairman of the Conservative Party of this this morning.”