LONDON, 14 Sep (APM) - MP George Freeman has said he will put his name forward to be the next leader of the Conservative party if "asked to" amid continuing speculation over Prime Minister Theresa May's future.
Freeman, who formerly chaired May's policy board, was appointed the first UK minister for life sciences at the Department of Health in 2014. He left that post in 2016.
He is quoted on the BBC website
as saying there should be a leadership contest next summer after the prime minister (PM) has taken the UK through Brexit.
He said he was "no Michael Heseltine" and would "stand back" if top figures from the "next generation" emerged.
May has said she will serve as long as her party wants her to.
Michael, now Lord, Heseltine launched a Conservative leadership challenge to Margaret Thatcher in 1990, triggering a contest won by John Major, after Lady Thatcher resigned as PM.
Earlier this week, pro-Brexit MPs unhappy with Theresa May's Chequers blueprint for future co-operation with the EU openly discussed her future. (APMHE 58850
May's office has insisted there is no vacancy and said the PM is focused on delivering the best outcome for the UK as it prepares to leave the EU in March.
Freeman, who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum and was seen as an ally of former Prime Minister David Cameron, quit as May's policy adviser in November last year over concerns about the direction of the party.
He said it should be up to a new leader to decide the UK's future relationship with the EU. The Mid-Norfolk MP said there should be a leadership contest next summer, lasting no more than three months, to determine the party's future direction, and he was prepared to throw his hat into the ring.
"If the question is 'will I stand', the answer is 'if people want me to in Parliament, I will'".
The next leader, he said, should come from the new crop of Tory politicians elected since 2010 - "not the old faces" as he described them - at least 10 of whom he suggested could do the job.
"I would like to see the whole range of candidates stand. I would like a democratic Conservative Party choose the right leader. I'd like to see the nation see the breadth of talent we have".
But Freeman indicated that he would not challenge May and would "stand back and champion" another candidate if they represented the "right package of ideas".