Liz Truss is pitching herself as being tough on the increased aggression from Russia and China as she tries to win over Tom Tugendhat’s supporters after his ejection from the Tory leadership contest.

The Foreign Secretary is reiterating a campaign pledge to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade, ahead of the penultimate round of voting among MPs on Tuesday.

She is setting out her pitch after Mr Tugendhat, who put his military past at the centre of his campaign, was eliminated, leaving the 31 votes of his supporters up for grabs.

Ms Truss wants to gain the backing of more Conservative colleagues in order to edge out rivals Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch, to face Rishi Sunak, who is the overwhelming favourite to reach the final two.

However, Ms Mordaunt, a naval reservist and former defence secretary who has come second in each round of voting so far, is banking on her military connections and more centrist policies as being more attractive to Mr Tugendhat’s backers.

Ms Truss pledged to recruit more soldiers, sailors and aviators, while buying more ships, submarines, jets and tanks if they are best suited to combat any future threat.

Conservative leadership bid
Tom Tugendhat, who put his military service at the centre of his campaign, was eliminated on Monday (Yui Mok/PA)

In a statement, the Foreign Secretary said: “We live in an increasingly dangerous world where the threat level is higher than a decade ago, and we need a stronger deterrent to face down those threats and ensure Britain leads on the global stage.

“Ultimately that requires more resources. My number one priority is keeping this country safe and people can trust me to do that.

“Britain and the free world face a defining moment. We need a prime minister capable of leading internationally, who can also drive the economic growth we need here at home. I am the candidate best placed to do that.”

(PA Graphics)

Her campaign made clear that she sees the rising threat as coming from authoritarian regimes including Russia and China.

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, has so far been way out in front of the other candidates in winning the support of Tory MPs and is the favourite to make the run-off to be the next prime minister, who will be chosen by Conservative Party members and announced in September.