PENNY Mordaunt has confirmed she will join the contest to become the next prime minister.

The Commons leader - who came third in the previous race - said she had been "encouraged by support from colleagues who want a fresh start".

She will need to secure the backing of 100 MPs to make it onto the final ballot by Monday afternoon. 

Launching her bid, Mordaunt said: "I’ve been encouraged by support from colleagues who want a fresh start, a united party and leadership in the national interest.

"I’m running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and your prime minister - to unite our country, deliver our pledges, and win the next GE [General Election]."

In the last leadership election, she attracted 105 nominations behind Rishi Sunak's 137 and Liz Truss's 113.

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She has previously served as trade minister, international development secretary, defence secretary - becoming the first woman to hold the position- and minister for equalities and women.

Mordaunt supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum and has previously been described as a "socially liberal" Brexiteer.

During her last leadership campaign, she ruled out the prospect of indyref2 in Scotland, saying "I won't play Nicola Sturgeon's games".

She insisted another "divisive" referendum was the wrong priority and the "last thing Scotland needs".

Mordaunt enjoyed the support of many Tories in Scotland last time and has once again been backed by Borders MP John Lamont.

He said: "Penny will unite the country as our Prime Minister and has my full support.

"She is exactly the kind of calm, cool and collected leader we need right now."