North West Tory MPs rule themselves out of the race for No 10

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is the favourite, according to YouGov Credit: Ian West/PA

North West Tory MPs Ben Wallace and Jake Berry have ruled themselves out of the race to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Defence Secretary Mr Wallace, who is MP for Wyre and Preston North, had been the early bookies favorite to win the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Writing on Twitter on Saturday Mr Wallace said: "After careful consideration and discussing with colleagues and family, I have taken the decision not to enter the contest for leadership of the Conservative Party.

"I am very grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues and wider members who have pledged support.

"It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe.

"I wish the very best of luck to all candidates and hope we swiftly return to focusing on the issues that we are all elected to address."

MP Jake Berry says he will make sure that the call for levelling up is not lost in the noise of a leadership election.

Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry, a former Northern Powerhouse Minister, had also been seen as contender.

He's chairman of the Northern Research Group (NRG) of Tory MPs elected in northern constituencies.

Amid a long Twitter thread discussing Levelling UP, Mr Berry said: "Whilst flattered to be asked by colleagues to throw my hat into the ring I believe my job and the role of the NRG during the leadership election will be to ensure our core pledge to level up, is not ignored."

North West MPs have called for Boris Johnson's successor to make sure levelling up is one of their top priorities.

North West Conservatives - in particular - have time and again said levelling up can't be seen as a mere slogan.

They say the next Prime Minister needs to have a plan to tackle inequality and make a difference.

Boris Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher groping scandal was the final nail in the coffin of his premiership Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA