Jeremy Hunt has announced he is backing Rishi Sunak to be the next prime minister.

The South West Surrey MP lost out in the vote yesterday afternoon to be the Comservative leader and prime minister, as he and chancellor Nadhim Zahawi failed to get enough votes from fellow MPs in the ballot to advance to the next stage.

Last night Mr Hunt was fairly philosophical, saying: “I want to thank my incredible team of loyal and talented supporters who put their faith in me. It’s become obvious to me you only get one big shot at this, and I had mine in 2019.

“Nevertheless, it’s clear our party has an exciting future, with the amazing array of talent on offer in this contest, and I feel confident we are on track to win back trust.

“A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates – smears and attacks may bring short-term tactical gain but always backfire long term.The nation is watching and they’ve had enough of our drama; be the broad church and unbeatable, election winning machine that our country deserves.”

Today, Mr Hunt said he was backing the former chancellor in the race to Number 10.

He said: “I have given this a lot of thought and I’m backing Rishi Sunak.

“The big challenge we face now is economic and Rishi is someone of formidable ability who has been thinking about the right thing to do for our economy for families up and down the country very hard for the past two years.

“But in the end it’s not about policy. I’ve been around long enough to know that politics is really about character and Rishi is one of the most decent and straight people with the highest standards of integrity who I have ever met in British politics. That’s why I will be proud to have him as my next prime minister.”