Boris Johnson is launching his Tory leadership campaign boosted by a major new cabinet endorsement and a highly favourable opinion poll.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has become the latest senior Tory to back the former foreign secretary, telling Sky News Mr Johnson will deliver Brexit on 31 October.
And a ComRes poll in The Daily Telegraph suggests that with Mr Johnson as leader the Conservatives could be heading for a landslide at the next election with a majority of 140.
Conservative leadership debate – be in the audience
We are looking for Conservative supporters to join the live audience and put the final two leadership hopefuls to the test
But Mr Johnson and other pro-Brexit leadership candidates are facing a potential blow as Labour and the opposition parties stage a parliamentary ambush aimed at blocking no-deal.
MPs will be asked to vote on a motion seizing control of Commons business from the government on 25 June, paving the way for legislation ruling out a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson far ahead of rivals in battle to become PM – Sky News analysis
The results will further enhance his front-runner status, with many in Westminster seeing the contest as his to lose
At his campaign launch, Mr Johnson will say: “Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society, and we cannot begin that task until we have delivered on the primary request of the people; the one big thing they have asked us to do.
“After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on 31 October.
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“We simply will not get a result if we give the slightest hint that we want to go on kicking the can down the road with yet more delay.
“Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.
“With every week and month that goes by in which we fail to deliver on our promise I am afraid we will further alienate not just our natural supporters but anyone who believes that politicians should deliver on their promises.”
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Claiming he has the ability to take on Jeremy Corbyn, he will say: “We cannot let them [Corbyn’s Labour] anywhere near Downing Street and I would remind you that the last time I faced an emanation of that Marxist cabal I defeated him when the Conservatives were 17 points behind in London. And we can do it again.”
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The ComRes poll in the Johnson-supporting Telegraph suggests the following general election outcomes with the leading candidates:
• Current – LAB win, short of majority by 36 seats
• Boris Johnson – CON win, majority of 140
• Dominic Raab – CON win, short by 57 seats
• Sajid Javid – LAB win, short by 69 seats
• Michael Gove – LAB win, short by 73 seats
• Jeremy Hunt – LAB win, short 84 seats
Announcing his support for Mr Johnson, Mr Barclay told Sky News in an exclusive interview: “It’s absolutely essential we leave the EU on 31 October. That’s the clear commitment Boris Johnson has given.
“That’s the message we have had from the country as a whole. And as Brexit secretary that’s something I’m deeply committed to achieving.
“We need to see Brexit as an opportunity to seeing the UK more globally outward-looking and positive. I think Boris Johnson represents that.”
How the contest will work
Candidates will face a number of rounds of voting among fellow MPs before a final pair are put before the party's membership
The veteran eurosceptic Tory MP Sir Bill Cash has also told Sky News he is supporting Mr Johnson, while the pro-EU Business Secretary Greg Clark told the Financial Times he is supporting Jeremy Hunt.
Also launching his campaign is Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who is expected to say: “I believe now more than ever that this is a moment for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader.
“A leader is not just for Christmas, or just for Brexit. So we can’t risk going with someone who feels like the short-term, comfort zone choice.
“We need tomorrow’s leader, today.”
Javid: No deal better than no Brexit
He will continue: “I know we can (change) because in one part of the country, we are already doing it. For years we were behind in Scotland – we all heard Labour’s joke about the number of pandas north of the border.
“Then the Scottish Tories threw out central casting and picked someone totally different. Someone who made them look at our party again… Labour? They aren’t laughing anymore.”
And on his own now-familiar back story, Mr Javid will say: “There was too much chance in my story, and too many kids I grew up with weren’t so lucky. For me hard work, public services, and my family were how I got ahead in life.
“So I want to learn from that and level the playing field for the next generation. I want everyone in this country to feel that if they have a go, they will have the opportunity to succeed.”
Who is vying to be PM and where do they stand on Brexit?
The race for the Conservative Party leadership is hotting up as the contenders launch their formal bids for the top job
Outlining the cross-party motion aiming to block no-deal, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “The debate on Brexit in the Tory leadership contest has descended into the disturbing, the ludicrous and the reckless.
“None of the likely candidates for the top job has a credible plan for how to break the deadlock before the end of October. Instead, we have witnessed candidates openly advocating a damaging no-deal Brexit and even proposing dragging the Queen into politics by asking her to shut down parliament to achieve this.
“MPs cannot be bystanders while the next Tory prime minister tries to crash the UK out of the European Union without a deal and without the consent of the British people.
“That’s why we are taking this latest measure to end the uncertainty and protect communities across the country.”