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Jeremy Hunt has set out his pitch to be the “serious leader” the UK needs in an apparent dig at Boris Johnson, as his campaign won the support of Penny Mordaunt and Amber Rudd – two big cabinet hitters on both sides of the Brexit divide.

Launching his campaign to enter No 10, Hunt made the case that he was the most experienced candidate, while his leaflets made the bold claims that he had “delivered the Olympics” and “negotiated peace talks in Yemen”.

The foreign secretary, who is now second favourite in the race, gave a speech in London, with his wife, Lucia, numerous MPs and other supporters in the audience.

Rudd, the work and pensions secretary and a leading moderate, said Hunt was best placed to break the Brexit impasse, while Mordaunt, the defence secretary, said he had “the experience, values, and a plan” to take the UK out of the EU.

Hunt’s pitch was that he was the best negotiator to deliver Brexit, arguing that his two years as culture secretary before the London Olympics had given him experience of complex projects. His leaflets also said he had “negotiated peace talks in Yemen” – a reference to his efforts to help the UN-sponsored talks back on track while fighting continues to break through the fragile ceasefire.

In a warning to his colleagues, he said the next prime minister must deliver Brexit before allowing a general election, saying the failure to leave the EU had “put our country and our party in grave peril”.

His message that he wanted to avoid a general election was applauded by supportive MPs. “Without a deal, any prime minister who promised to leave by a certain date would have to call a general election to change the parliamentary arithmetic. Read more

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