A minister has vented his frustration with Conservative colleagues jockeying to replace Theresa May, urging them to focus on getting Brexit “across the line” first.
Tobias Ellwood told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday he would not be putting himself forward to succeed the prime minister.
“I don’t have the rank and I don’t have the experience,” the defence minister said.
“I’m not going to run. And this isn’t a TV reality contest.”
Speculation has been swirling for months about who will succeed Mrs May.
Earlier this week she promised to set out her timetable for departure soon, a move that has fired the starting gun on the Tory leadership contest.
A number of runners and riders are thought likely to enter the race, with the contest being compared to the crowded field at the start of the Grand National by one minister.
Mr Ellwood made clear his anger at the focus on the leadership question – and said he thinks some colleagues are more focused on their leadership ambitions than doing their jobs.
“Let’s have some loyalty, let’s have some commitment, let’s have some discipline in focusing on the one thing that we need to get across the line, which is Brexit,” he said.
“The idea that we jump ahead and start toying around with who should be the leader… I do urge my colleagues to think why are they putting their name forward?
“Is it to raise their own profile – and some colleagues as well are changing their views in order to woo our membership to raise their profile as well.
“This is getting things in the wrong order. Our focus must be to get Brexit across the line.”
International Development Secretary Rory Stewart plans to stand, as does former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.
Dominic Raab, who was Brexit secretary, is widely tipped to put himself forward.
Current ministers also thought likely to enter the race include Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has not ruled out a candidacy, declining to do so four times when asked by Sky News.
“The good thing about my job is I have so much to do that I don’t need to be posing in kitchens and doing things,” he said, adding that his focus was on “getting the deal over the line”.