James Cleverly explains why he switched to backing Johnson

sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more

The Conservative leadership race is ramping up ahead of nominations opening on Monday as the contenders continue to declare their credentials for the top job.

Here are the runners and riders:

- Boris Johnson

The former foreign secretary, who played a key role in the Vote Leave campaign at the 2016 referendum, is widely seen as the front-runner.

On Brexit, he has committed to keeping the October 31 deadline even if that means leaving without a deal and said he would step up no-deal preparations.

He also said he would refuse to pay the promised £39 billion to the European Union unless better Brexit terms are on offer.

Key quote: 'I truly believe only I can steer the country between the Scylla and Charybdis of Corbyn and Farage and on to calmer water.'

What he's said about drugs: Confessed to trying cocaine and smoking cannabis as a teenager at Oxford in a magazine interview in 2007.

Backers: James Brokenshire, Gavin Williamson, Steve Baker.

- Jeremy Hunt

The Foreign Secretary has ruled nothing out on Brexit, but insists that his experience as a negotiator in both business and politics means he could go to Brussels and secure a better deal.

He has said he would keep a no-deal Brexit on the table, but warned it could be 'political suicide' for the Conservatives as Parliament would force a general election.

He has called for a big increase in defence spending after Britain leaves the EU to counter rising global threats and has suggested slashing corporation tax to Irish levels of 12.5% to attract investment.

Key quote: 'We will absolutely be obliterated in an election if we haven't delivered Brexit.'

What he's said about drugs: Told The Times he had a 'cannabis lassi', a yoghurt-based drink, when he was backpacking through India in his youth.

Backers: Liam Fox, Greg Hands, Mark Field.

- Dominic Raab

The former Brexit secretary has set out an uncompromising approach in a bid to appeal to hardline Eurosceptics.

He wants Brussels to ditch the Irish backstop as part of a new agreement, but if the EU will not move on the issue, he will walk away without a deal on October 31 - and has not ruled out suspending Parliament to ensure that MPs cannot block the UK's exit.

He also wants to toughen up community sentences and has promised a shake-up of maternity care.

Key quote: 'We need to up our game, which means being less naive, and being absolutely resolute about our intention and our resolve to leave on October 31. It seems to me that I'm the only candidate in this race that is clear about that.'

What he's said about drugs: Has admitted taking cannabis as a student.

Backers: David Davis, Nadhim Zahawi, Maria Miller.

- Michael Gove

The Environment Secretary, who scuppered Mr Johnson's last leadership bid in 2016, is again positioning himself in opposition to the front-runner.

Unlike Mr Johnson, he has not ruled out seeking a further delay to Brexit - possibly for months beyond October 31 - if a deal is in reach, and warned pursuing a no-deal scenario could lead to a general election in which Jeremy Corbyn could enter Number 10.

He has set out a 'pro-business economic plan' to take on Mr Corbyn's 'Marxist message' and said he would replace VAT after Brexit with a 'lower, simpler' sales tax.

Key quote: 'If I am prime minister of this country I want to ensure it's the best place in the world to live, learn, raise a family, achieve your potential, and start and run a business.'

What he's said about drugs: Said he 'deeply regrets' taking cocaine 'on several occasions' two decades ago.

Backers: Mel Stride, Nicky Morgan, Ed Vaizey.

- Rory Stewart

The International Development Secretary has travelled around the country filming himself chatting to voters in a bid to raise his profile in the race.

A Remainer who now accepts the referendum vote, he has ruled out a no-deal Brexit and would establish a citizens' assembly to thrash out a new Brexit compromise.

He has also pledged to protect the Conservatives' 'reputation for economic competence', hitting out at the 'unfunded spending commitments' made by rivals.

Key quote: 'Candidates that are advocating a no-deal Brexit as well as tax cuts will - in one afternoon in October - lose us a reputation that we have spent 300

read more from dailymail.....

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT Fadi Fawaz 'is living in a shockingly dirty £49-a-night Travelodge'