Andrea Leadsom has told Conservative MPs that she is happy to show them a summary of her tax returns if they ask, but she will not immediately follow in the footsteps of her opponents and publish the details publicly.
The energy minister, who is now second favourite to become the next Conservative leader and prime minister after Theresa May, told colleagues at a hustings in parliament that her financial affairs were “very boring”.
But she continued to resist pressure to reveal the details more widely, despite the decisions by both May, and the justice secretary, Michael Gove, to publish theirs.
A source close to Leadsom said that the “electorate” that she was campaigning among was the 330 Tory MPs in parliament, who were welcome to see the information. But he argued that she was resisting pressure to provide the details to journalists because she feared the impact it would have on colleagues.
“She does not want to put MPs who are not running for the office of prime minister in a position where they feel pressured into disclosing their tax returns as well,” he said.
However, he insisted that Leadsom had nothing to hide and would publish the details after Thursday’s vote if she made the final two, who are then put forward for a vote by Tory grassroots members.
It comes after May issued a statement saying that the party and country deserved an “open, honest, robust debate” and for the next leader to have won a proper mandate through the contest.
Resisting the calls of some MPs for her to automatically be granted the job given her massive lead among Conservative politicians, the home secretary also urged her supporters not to try to exclude Leadsom on Thursday.
“There should be no deals, no tactical voting, and no coronation,” she said.
“I was very grateful to my colleagues for their support on Tuesday, and I welcome the opportunity to set out my vision for this country.”
There had been some concerns from Leadsom supporters that May would try to lend support to Gove because of a belief that she would have a better chance of beating him among the party’s grassroots.
May outpolls the justice secretary among party members, but one poll has had her neck and neck with Leadsom.
It comes as a senior Conservative figure is calling on the party to speed up the process of electing the next leader, warning that the ongoing instability and uncertainty could have “real-life consequences for jobs, livelihoods and the security of families across Britain”.
Grant Shapps has written to the party chairman, Andrew Feldman, calling for the party’s board to consider “significantly shortening” the timescale now that the final two candidates will be selected on Thursday, much more quickly than expected.
“We are living through unprecedented times and, unusually, this leadership election is occurring whilst we are in office; meaning that we are electing a prime minister. The country desperately needs post-Brexit direction in order to avoid a political vacuum bearing serious consequences for all those we represent.”
Shapps said the original decision to announce the result in September assumed that it would take until recess, later this month, for the party to select a final two, and that holidays in August meant it was right to allow extra time for the competition to close.
But he argued there was now enough time for members to consider their options and make a decision by late July.
“As a former party chairman, I am keenly aware of protecting our members’ rights to vote and make that decision. However, given the exceptional post-Brexit times in which we are living, I firmly believe that it is now wrong to wait for a final decision to emerge next autumn,” he added.
“Clearly there will be a desire for the final two leadership candidates to set out their platform to members and the country. Given the national urgency in making this final leadership decision, I believe that these hustings should be held over a three-week period, during which time members can also cast their ballots.”
He told the Guardian that the “Tory party prides itself of acting in the national interest” and ought to do so now in choosing a prime minister. Shapps has sent his letter to MPs across the house, including those in the Labour party, to garner support for his call.
This article was written by Anushka Asthana, Rowena Mason and Holly Watt, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th July 2016 18.16 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010