Matt Hancock withdraws from Tory leadership contest - but won't say who he will support

Matt Hancock has withdrawn from the Tory leadership race and said he "hasn't decided" which of the final six candidates he will be supporting next.

He told ITV News: "The party is looking at somebody who can deal with the unique circumstances that we face right now so I have decided to withdraw from the contest."

The Health Secretary said he hopes to "find other ways to fight for the future and advance the values that I hold dear and that the Conservative Party must stick to if it is going to deliver for the country."

He added: "I am going to talk to the other candidates, I'm going to ask them about the values that really matter."

It comes after the contest was narrowed down to seven candidates on Thursday June 13 as Mark Harper, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom were eliminated in the first round of voting for the next leader.

Boris Johnson overwhelmingly topped the first ballot, putting him in pole position to be the next prime minister.

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Mr Johnson suggested he will miss a leadership debate hosted by Channel 4 on Sunday because there would be too many people involved.

Instead, he said he would be prepared to take part in the BBC debate on Tuesday evening once the field has narrowed after the second leadership contest ballot earlier in the day.

According to the BBC, Mr Johnson told The World At One: "I think it is important that we have a sensible grown-up debate.

"My own observation is that in the past when you've had loads of candidates, it can be slightly cacophonous and I think the public have had quite a lot of blue on blue action frankly over the last three years."

He added: "I think the best solution would be to have a debate on what we all have to offer the country and the best time to do that I think would be after the second ballot on Tuesday and the best forum is the proposed BBC debate."

Six Tories remain in the Conservative leadership race. Credit: PA

Mr Hancock said he will look to "advance the values we fought for" and will talk to all the other candidates about these values.

He said: "I am going to ask them about the values that really matter.

"What really matters is that the Conservative Party delivers for the centre ground of British politics where there is a gaping hole that we need to fill where we deliver for people on the things that matter to them, making sure for instance that we have a strong economy and a strong public services," he continued.

However it is quite clear the Health Secretary may not be backing Dominic Raab as he wore a pair of socks which had "this is what a feminist looks like" written on them.

The comment on his socks appears to be a dig at Mr Raab as he revealed to ITV News he is not a feminist and can't remember the last time he cried.

Meanwhile, Sajid Javid has told ITV News that he's very much still in the contest - and will be looking to pick up support from the Hancock camp.

He conceded that Boris Johnson had done very well, almost certainly making it through to the last two.

Chancellor Philip Hammond told reporters on Friday morning he could not serve in any Cabinet that would not take the possibility of a no-deal Brexit off the table.

When asked if he would serve under frontrunner Mr Johnson, he said: "I don't think this is about personalities, it's about policies."

"Before I could serve in any government, I would want to look at the policies that the prime minister was setting out.

"I would not be able to serve in a government that had as its policy that it would leave the EU without a deal."

A second round of hustings will take place on Monday June 17, organised by the 1922 Committee and a second ballot will take place on Tuesday.

Candidates need to secure 33 votes in the second ballot on Tuesday in order to continue in the contest.

In Mr Hancock's campaign, on the issue of Brexit, he vowed to go to Brussels to broker a time limit to the controversial Irish backstop and said MPs would block a no-deal exit.

He also pledged to raise the national living wage to more than £10 an hour.

It is thought Home Secretary Sajid Javid - who secured 23 votes in the ballot on Thursday - may seek Mr Hancock's backing.