HEALTH secretary Matt Hancock has withdrawn from the Tory leadership race as candidates seek a way to defeat front-runner Boris Johnson.
Mr Hancock (pictured), who secured 20 votes in the first ballot of the contest yesterday, said the party is looking for a candidate for the ‘unique circumstances that exist now’.
He tweeted: ‘I have decided to withdraw from the race to be the next leader of the Conservative Party.
‘I will now look for the best way to advance the values we fought for.’
Candidates need to secure 33 votes in the second ballot on Tuesday in order to continue in the contest.
In his campaign, on the issue of Brexit, Mr Hancock 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 that Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who secured 23 votes in the ballot on Thursday, may seek Mr Hancock’s backing.
Mr Johnson was the clear winner in the first ballot with 114 votes, 71 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Jeremy Hunt. However, Mr Hancock came sixth.
He said he was ‘hugely grateful’ for the support he had received throughout the campaign and that he was ‘proud of the way we managed to set the agenda’.
‘I ran as the candidate of the future, but the party is understandably looking for a candidate for the unique circumstances we face right now.
‘I have therefore decided to withdraw from this contest, and I will look for the best way to advance the values we fought for, of free enterprise, and an open, aspirational, free society, underpinned by an optimistic belief in the value of each individual person.
‘I will talk to all the other candidates about how these values can be best taken forward.’
It came after the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum made a comparison between Mr Johnson and Adolf Hitler.
Mohammed Amin said he would quit the Tory Party after many years as a member if the former foreign secretary was elected leader.
Mr Amin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I am not prepared to be a member of a party that chooses him as its leader.
‘I would resign after 36 years.’
Asked about Mr Johnson’s popularity with grassroots members of the party, Mr Amin said: ‘There are many horrible people who have been popular. Popularity is not the test.
‘The test is, is this person sufficiently moral to be prime minister, and I believe he fails that test.’
Mr Amin added: ‘A lot of Germans thought that Hitler was the right man for them.’
Told that that was a shocking comparison, Mr Amin said: ‘Yes.
‘I am not saying Boris Johnson wants to send people to the gas chamber, clearly he doesn’t.
‘He’s a buffoon.
‘But he, as far as I’m concerned, has insufficient concern about the nature of truth for me to ever be a member of a party that he leads.’
■ BORIS JOHNSON has signalled his intention to appear in a BBC debate on the Tory leadership — but not one on Channel 4.
But his absence from the first televised event leaves the prospect of Channel 4 empty-chairing the aspiring prime minister.
Mr Johnson has said that there would be too many people involved in the Channel 4 broadcast on Sunday — suggesting it would be too ‘cacophonous’.