Tom Tugendhat has become the first MP to say he would run to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a Tory leadership contest.
The ex-soldier and Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman told Times Radio it would be a “huge privilege”.
He said he had not been “canvassing support”, but “of course, you should have a go”.
It comes as the future of Mr Johnson’s premiership remains under doubt, as he awaits the report into parties at Downing Street and Whitehall.
It is understood the report – compiled by senior civil servant Sue Gray – will be sent to Number 10 shortly, as opposed to in a matter of weeks or months.
Tugendhat open about ambitions
Mr Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling who has been critical of the government’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, said he wanted to be open about his ambition.
He said: “It would be a huge privilege. It’s one of those questions that I know many people ask and some people, some of my colleagues, are coy about, and I don’t understand why.
“I don’t think you should be embarrassed to want to serve your country. I was very proud to serve my country in the armed forces, and I got to the highest rank I could so that I could have the best effect that I could.
“And I was very proud to serve as a diplomat around the world.”
On Friday, the Daily Mail reported that centrist Tories are backing Mr Tugendhat to be Mr Johnson’s successor, believing he represents the “best chance for a fresh start”.
Police deny delaying report
Meanwhile, the publication of the long-awaited Gray report – which could decide the PM’s future – was thrown into disarray on Thursday when Dame Cressida Dick said her officers had opened a criminal inquiry.
The force has been accused of watering down the report as it asked Ms Gray to make only “minimal reference” to No 10 events which are subject to a criminal investigation, buying more time for Mr Johnson.
On Friday, the Met insisted it’s not asked Ms Gray to delay her report or placed further restrictions on other events.
Former attorney general Lord Morris of Aberavon said: “I am dismayed with the vacillation of the Metropolitan Police.
“Surely it is in the public interest that major concerns over events in Downing Street be investigated and reported on.
“Any prejudice that might result in fines would be a disproportionate concern.”
Sir Peter Fahy, a former chief constable of Greater Manchester and head of national counterterrorism, told The Times the move had “strangely allowed Boris to get off the hook. At the moment, it has really taken the spotlight off Boris.”
Met under fire for intervention on Gray report
Lawyers have also criticised the Met’s response, and some have questioned how the Met’s investigation could be prejudiced if only lesser offences were being considered.
Publication of reports and other inquiries can often be delayed until a police investigation and any court case is concluded, typically to avoid prejudicing a jury.
However, if police investigate under coronavirus laws there would be little risk as the penalty for breaking lockdown rules is a fine and highly unlikely to result in prosecution.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, said on Twitter: “This is absolute nonsense from the Met Police.
“A purely factual report by Sue Gray cannot possibly prejudice a police investigation. They just have to follow the evidence, of which the report will be a part.”
Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption told BBC Newsnight there was “something very strange going on” and there is “no legal rule” stating that a factual report cannot be published ahead of the police investigation.
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