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Conservative leadership contest: The candidates set to replace Theresa May

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The foreign secretary is an obvious frontrunner and colleagues say he is in the advanced stages of preparing a leadership bid. He has plenty going for him: He survived six years as Health Secretary, a remarkable feat for any minister, and has more Cabinet experience than most of his would-be rivals.

Neither has he embarrassed himself as Foreign Secretary.

However, Hunt campaigned for Remain in 2016, which makes him damaged goods in the eyes of many Tory members. He has since become an enthusiastic Brexit convert, but colleagues say he, along with fellow leadership rival Sajid Javid, has overcompensated on that front, saying that he would prefer a no-deal Brexit to no Brexit at all.

Of Hunt and Javid, one Conservative MP told Business Insider: “The two of them are damaged […] They supported Remain in 2016. Now, they’ve now tacked over to the Leave side. But they’ve overcompensated, and it’s not convincing.”

The MP said Hunt’s criticism of Airbus was an example of such behaviour. The foreign secretary said the aeroplane manufacturer’s warnings about the UK’s Brexit strategy were “completely inappropriate” and said the government should ignore “siren voices.”

“Hunt’s attitude to Airbus was absolutely unacceptable. His speech at the party conference was an absolute embarrassment. It’s unforgivable, much as I respect him as someone who survived 6 years at health.”

Hunt’s Cabinet experience could, ultimately, work against him. One Tory MP said they felt the Cabinet ministers who stayed on in government would be too closely associated with Theresa May’s disastrous government, and that the next prime minister would be either an outsider or someone who had resigned, like Boris Johnson.

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