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Haverhill MP, Matt Hancock, is among the 13 candidates to have so far put their name forward in the Conservative Party leadership race

The Parliamentary voice for Haverhill, West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, is now vying to become the next occupant of 10 Downing Street, and with it the nation’s Prime Minister.

The Health Secretary is one of 13 candidates to have so far entered the race to become PM after Theresa May confirmed that she will quit as Conservative Party leader on Friday.

Also in the running to be the next PM is the former Deputy Chairman of the Conservatives and MP for Braintree, James Cleverly, whose constituency borders Haverhill.

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock

And the thirteenth, and latest MP to announce they want to replace Mrs May is the former Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah.

Ironically, Mr Gyimah, failed to get selected as the prospective Conservative candidate for the West Suffolk seat in 2010, losing out to Matt Hancock after being placed on a shortlist of six.

Braintree MP James Cleverly
Braintree MP James Cleverly

Mr Hancock said of his vision for the future: “The next Prime Minister needs to be focused on the long term future of Britain.

“Of course Brexit is important but this is about what we want Britain to be in the 2020s.

“I’ve been lucky enough to learn in Government how to get stuff done and we need to get things moving because politics in Britain is stuck in a rut.

“I know from living in West Suffolk the frustrations people feel at things that can be improved and I want to get into solving those sorts of problems –having properly funded public services, people with more money in their bank account at the end of the month as well as of course delivering Brexit in the short term.”

The tipping point age at which a person is more likely to vote Conservative has risen to 51 and Mr Hancock hopes he can broaden his party’s reach to appeal to younger voters.

Mrs May was the latest in a string of Tory leaders to be felled by her party’s wrangling over the UK’s relationship with Europe after MPs rejected her withdrawal agreement three times.

Although the face at the helm will change, the Parliamentary arithmetic remains.

“We have to deliver Brexit within this Parliament,” Mr Hancock said.

“We can’t have a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit – that means agreeing a deal this Parliament will accept.

“The one thing that has passed Parliament is the proposal for alternative arrangements based on technology at the Irish border so we need to do much more on that to get a deal through.

“I’m going to be brutally honest about the trade-offs involved in delivering a Brexit deal in advance of asking MPs and party members for my vote because I want a mandate to be able to deliver a deal through Parliament so we can leave.”

Frontrunner Boris Johnson has insisted the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31 but Mr Hancock has poured cold water on this approach.

“I don’t think that no deal is a policy option available,” he said.

“In March we found Parliament was willing to change centuries of constitutional rules to legislate to stop no deal happening whether the Government chose to or not so I don’t think it’s a credible policy option for the next Prime Minister.”

However, he does not support a second referendum, insisting that Parliament must abide by the country’s decision in 2016.

The Conservatives and Labour suffered a drubbing in the European elections after both parties lost MEPs to The Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats, which won 29 and 16 seats respectively.

On the message taken from those elections, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve got to deliver Brexit. We made a promise to do that but we also need to appeal to people who voted Lib Dem and people who floated with voting Labour.

“We’ve got to look to the future and provide people with hope and opportunities and I think we can do that.”

He has written to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 to ask them to screen live Conservative leadership debates.

The BBC has already agreed and all candidates in the race by mid-June will take part in a hustings event on BBC One. The final two will then appear in a Question Time Special.

The other candidates who have confirmed they will stand are Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse and Mark Harper.

Candidates have until next Monday to put their names forward for the leadership and MPs will pick the final two in a series of votes, before deciding the winner in a postal ballot.

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