The battle for the Conservative leadership has been dramatically transformed after Boris Johnson announced that he will not stand in the race to succeed David Cameron.
The former London mayor’s decision not to join the battle leaves Home Secretary Theresa May as hot favourite to be the next Prime Minister.
It came after the shock announcement by fellow Brexit campaigner Michael Gove - who had widely been expected to be Mr Johnson’s running mate - that he was putting himself forward for the leadership.
In a dramatic press conference just moments before the deadline for nominations passed, Mr Johnson said that the next Tory leader would have to unify his party and ensure that Britain stood tall in the world.
And he said: “Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me.”
It leaves Home Secretary Theresa May the clear favourite to succeed David Cameron in the race for No 10.
Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be meBoris Johnson
In a statement released just hours before Mr Johnson was due to formally launch his leadership bid, Mr Gove said he had “reluctantly” concluded that he could not support the ex-London mayor.
“I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be prime minister. That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me,” he said.
“I respect and admire all the candidates running for the leadership. In particular, I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.
“But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership.
“I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take. Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change.”