Tory leadership contest: 5 facts to know as campaigns kickoff

After months of phony war the Tory leadership election officially begins today.

Nominations open at 10am and close at 5pm – with the first knockout round of voting by Tory MPs this Thursday. Anyone without 8 backers must drop out tonight, and without 16 backers, this Thursday.

The contest runs until the end of July and the winner will be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – decided between a final two by 160,000 Tory members.

Remainers Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock and Brexiteer Dominic Raab are all holding launch events this morning.

Michael Gove – whose bid is in crisis over his admission he used cocaine – is hosting a launch this afternoon.

The candidates have unleashed a flurry of policy announcements. Mr Gove said he would replace VATwith a “lower, simpler sales tax” once we have left the EU.

Andrea Leadsom resigns: Leader of the House of Commons steps down from government

“I cannot support this bill”;Commons Leaders Andrea Leadsom as she leaves May’s government

A truly bad day for Theresa May, one which would certainly count as the worst-ever for many other prime ministers, actually began very late the previous night as the newspaper front pages dropped on social media.

Probably the most brutal of a scathing bunch was the Telegraph, traditionally the bible of Conservative thought: “Desperate, deluded, doomed,” it read, above a trio of images of the prime minister in mid-gurn giving her Brexit speech.

With reaction to May’s “10-point offer” becoming more negative by the hour, the apparent No 10 strategy seemed to be to somehow get through the day, and thus on to the media purdah of Thursday’s European elections, and then into next week’s parliamentary recess.