ESSEX MPs have declared their support for colleagues in the race to become the next Prime Minister.

However, Braintree MP James Cleverly is no longer in the running after he dramatically pulled out less than a week after announcing his intention to stand.

Mr Cleverly was one of 13 MPs vying to replace Conservative leader Theresa May.

But yesterday, he reversed his decision in an open letter to constituents.

Gazette: James Cleverly has dropped out of the raceJames Cleverly has dropped out of the race

In the letter he said his candidacy had asked the party’s MPs to take a leap of faith to vote for a relatively new politician.

He said: “It is clear that despite much support, particularly from our party’s grassroots, MPs weren’t comfortable with such a move and it has become clear that it is highly unlikely that I would progress to be the final two candidates.

“For this reason I have withdrawn from the process of selecting a new leader and will not be submitting nomination papers.”

Now, 12 candidates are left in the contest to take over including favourite Boris Johnson, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and ex-leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom.

Colchester’s MP Will Quince has backed Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt for the country’s top job.

In a video posted on his Twitter, Mr Quince said the amount of MPs running showed there was a “breadth of talent” in the party.

Gazette: Will QuinceWill Quince

He said: “Now I know many will see this leadership contest through the prism of Brexit alone, but a Prime Minister is responsible for so much more.

“We must think not just about the changes we want to see over the next few months but how we can continue to improve people’s lives over the coming years. For me this is about values, and who has the values that best match mine, and those of my constituency.

“Jeremy’s time in the Department of Health​ showed me that he puts people and families at the heart of his vision for our country.

“The most important changes we can make, are those that improve the lives of our constituents, that is why I will be support him to be the next leader of the Conservative party.”

Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin, Harwich and North Essex MP, said he had not yet made up his mind on who to support.

Gazette: Bernard JenkinBernard Jenkin

However, he added: “I’m keen we are thinking beyond Brexit.

“We need more funding for police. We need to address the intergenerational unfairness the young people are having to pay for their education and not getting index linked pensions and finding it difficult to get on the property ladder.

“We need to look at the relationship between Government and big business.

“People have lost faith that Government and political parties care about small businesses and the generality of voters.”

Maldon MP John Whittingdale said he would support Boris Johnson.

Gazette: John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale

“In the last 48 hours, we have had some quite big declarations of support for Boris, and a lot of these MPs have similar views to me on Brexit,” he said.

“It is, however, becoming frankly ridiculous, the number of candidates we now have.

“I feel there should be a maximum of five considered in the end for the leadership.

“My party is in such a mess, we need someone who is going to win the community’s support, and that is Boris.”

Clacton MP Giles Watling said he was awaiting candidates’ performances in front of the 1922 committee, the Tory’s parliamentary group.

Gazette: Giles WatlingGiles Watling

“The delay is driving our business community down the drain, putting unfair pressure on our exports and our industries,” he told the Gazette.

“We need to finish this now and make Britain a world performer once more.”

Witham MP Priti Patel, whose constituency includes Tiptree and Stanway, did not respond to the Gazette’s requests for comment.

Ms Patel, who was sacked by Theresa May as International Development Secretary in 2017, was a close ally of Mr Johnson before the EU Referendum but might also be considering her own leadership bid.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has been installed by all of the bookies as the favourite with some odds as short as 11/10.

Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom are his closest rivals according to the experts.