A SOUTH Essex MP has become the latest contender in the fight to become the new leader of the Conservatives.

John Baron, Basildon and Billericay MP since 2001, has confirmed he wants to become the next leader of the Conservatives to replace David Cameron when he steps down in the autumn.

The former 57 year old Army captain played a key role in ensuring an EU referendum was held, sending a letter to Mr Cameron in 2013 signed by more than 100 other MPs, expressing regret a vote could not be held sooner.

An Echo poll of about 700 of our readers, which opened before Mr Baron announced his candidacy, proved half backed Boris Johnson as their preferred future leader in front of Theresa May, Michael Gove, Dr Liam Fox and George Osborne.

Rebecca Harris, Tory MP for Castle Point, says that time is likely to count against Mr Baron, as opposed to a lack of ministerial experience.

She said: “I don’t think having less ministerial experience could count against anybody looking to challenge for the leadership, look at David Cameron who has been a fantastic Prime Minister.

“I think what will be difficult for John is that the campaign for the leadership is likely to be very short, so he doesn’t have much time to get himself out there.

“In terms of who I want to lead us, I am undecided, but think it should be somebody who backed the Leave campaign.”

Stephen Metcalfe, Tory MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, has given his backing to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, as she bids to take over as leader of the Conservative Party.

Mr Metcalfe believes Mrs May’s experience at the top of government, would make her best placed to take over the reins and begin trade negotiations with the European Union.

He said: “I believe Theresa May could step into the role easily, and is capable of taking us forward.

“I am not saying there are not other worthy candidates, the British people need someone who has experience at the top of government, and is able to go in and get on with the negotiating, rather than going through a learning curve.”

The Echo attempted to contact Mark Francois, Jackie Doyle-Price, Sir David Amess and James Duddridge.