Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps pulls out of Tory party leadership race

Grant Shapps MP is out of the running to become Conservative Party leader

Grant Shapps MP is out of the running to become Conservative Party leader - Credit: PA

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has withdrawn from the Conservative Party leadership contest.

The serving transport secretary has given his backing to Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor. Mr Shapps will no longer seek to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson as his party's leader later this year.

In a Tweet, Mr Shapps said: "Huge thanks to my team for helping to [pull together my leadership bid in literally no time!

"Amongst a field of brilliant candidates, I've spoken to Rishi Sunak who I believe has the competence and experience to lead this country."

Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield, has withdrawn from the Conservative Party leadership race

Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield, has withdrawn from the Conservative Party leadership race (File picture) - Credit: PA

Mr Shapps launched his leadership bid following Boris Johnson's resignation statement on Thursday, July 7.

He was in the race to replace Mr Johnson against Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Rehman Chishti, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat and Nadhim Zahawi.

Grant Shapps MP has given his backing to Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership race

Grant Shapps MP has given his backing to Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership race - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Penny Mordaunt, another of the Conservative Party leadership hopefuls

Penny Mordaunt, another of the Conservative Party leadership hopefuls - Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Launching his campaign last weekend, Mr Shapps said: "I do think we have lost sight of what we should be about as a Conservative government.

"We should trust people and allow them to spend their money as they wish.

"We must map a clear path to lower taxes, not just expressing good intentions."

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He added: "We have had a two-and-a-half years of tactical government by an often distracted centre. This must end.

"We must be a strategic government, sober in its analysis and not chasing the next headline."

Mr Shapps said he had not spent his time "plotting" against Mr Johnson while in government.

In TV media rounds, Mr Shapps said he would focus on cutting red tape, and he refused to be drawn into a debate on trans rights on Sky News' Sophy Ridge programme.

He received support from several senior Conservative MPs including Trudy Harrison, George Eustice and Robert Courts, as well as a message of support from Ukraine's Minister for Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov.

Mr Kubrakov said: "I wish my friend Grant Shapps luck for Prime Minister.

"Thank you for the active position and tireless support of Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.

"Since the first hours of the full-scale invasion on February 24, we have been in constant communication."

A Welwyn Hatfield Labour Party spokesperson said Mr Shapps' Conservative leadership bid would not "boost his popularity" with constituency voters.

They said: "We are back out on to doorsteps to speak to Welwyn Hatfield residents about their concerns.

"The cost of living, a broken NHS and crumbling transport system, key amongst them.

"If Shapps thinks this leadership bid will boost his popularity in our constituency, he’s sorely mistaken."

But the MP received public praise for his stance on civil rights amid widespread concern among the LGBTQ+ community that Conservative leadership candidates are "flexing culture war muscles" and creating a "terrifying" environment for trans people.

Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews CEO, described Mr Shapps' stance as "refreshing".

He said: "In absolute fairness to Grant Shapps - whatever you think about other policies and positions of his - he’s actually been supportive of LGBTQ+ issues."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces his resignation plans on July 7

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces his resignation plans on July 7 - Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's replacement as Conservative Party leader is due to be announced on September 5.

The party's 1922 Committee agreed that in order to stand for leader, each nominee needs the support of 20 or more MPs.

Mr Shapps' support now lies with Rishi Sunak, who launched his "Ready for Rishi" campaign today (Tuesday, July 12).

At the launch event, Mr Sunak said: "My message to the party and the country is simply - I have a plan to steer our economy through these headwinds.

"We need a return to traditional Conservative economic values and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairytales."

Rishi Sunak launches his "Ready for Rishi" Conservative Party leadership bid at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, July 12

Rishi Sunak launches his "Ready for Rishi" Conservative Party leadership bid at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, today (July 12) - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Mr Sunak was one of the first MPs to quit government in a mass resignation last week (beginning Tuesday, July 5), along with former health secretary Sajid Javid.

Boris Johnson announced his intention to step down after more than 50 government resignations, making him the third Conservative PM to resign since the party was elected into government in 2010.