NAdine Dorris has suggested it is not “the end of Boris Johnson” after the former prime minister ruled himself out of the race for No 10.

The former cabinet minister said there had been “hours of talks” between Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt to agree a common solution, but the rest of the candidates “refused to come together”, opting to “go their separate ways”.

She told Times Radio that Johnson’s supporters “really want us to have unity in the party” and would be “very keen to support a candidate to make that happen”.

Ms Dorris, a staunch Johnson ally, suggested Ms Mordaunt was not a serious contender, adding: “I don’t think when you’re talking about Penny Mordaunt you’re asking anyone to back down. I mean, Penny didn’t have a serious government job. The fact that Penny asked Boris Johnson to stand down for her I thought was very interesting.”

She said the former prime minister had stepped down “for the right reasons”, insisting that “this does not mean this is the end of Boris Johnson”.