I back Boris to be PM, says Owen Paterson
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has announced he will be supporting Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership race.
Nominations for the contest, which will effectively decide who becomes Britain's next prime minister, close today.
And Mr Paterson said he believed the former foreign secretary was the only man who could prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming prime minister.
He is the last of the county's five MPs to declare who he will be supporting in the first round of voting on Thursday.
Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynksi and The Wrekin's Mark Pritchard are also backing Mr Johnson, while Telford's Lucy Allan is supporting Sajid Javid and Ludlow MP Philip Dunne is backing Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Paterson, a former cabinet minister, said last week's Peterborough by-election should serve as a wake-up call for the Conservatives.
The Conservatives were pushed into third place behind Labour and Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party.
He said it showed that when Conservative voters switched to the Brexit Party, Labour could win.
"Boris is the only candidate who can win back the support of those who have left the Conservatives for the Brexit Party," said Mr Paterson.
"He is the only candidate who can prevent the horror of a Corbyn Government."
Mr Paterson said under normal circumstances the Conservatives would have won the Peterborough by-election, which was called after the sitting Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was jailed for perverting the course of justice.
But he said the party would face oblivion if it did not deliver Brexit by October 31 at the latest.
Mr Paterson, a former Northern Ireland secretary, said Theresa May's withdrawal agreement was a non-starter which would have breached the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
But he said that was just the most serious of many problems with Mrs May's deal.
"It would have condemned the UK’s fishing industry and would have left British farmers unable to embrace innovation outside the failing EU model," he said.
He said the Government needed to focus on a wide-ranging free trade agreement, as offered by Donald Tusk in March 2018.
"Boris Johnson has fully grasped the existential threat which any delay poses," he says.
"Boris understands that the Conservatives will not be listened to on anything until we have delivered Brexit."
Mr Paterson said that Mr Boris also had a positive vision for the future once Brexit had been achieved, with lower taxes and less regulation.
He said Mr Johnson was also committed to giving police the powers to tackle violent crime and ensuing rural schools got their fair share of funding.
Mr Paterson said he had recently worked with Mr Johnson on measures to tackle wildlife crime.
He said Mr Johnson's success in twice winning the London mayoral elections in what was traditionally a Labour stronghold, showed that he had broad appeal.
He said Mr Johnson's own multicultural background as a New York born Briton of Turkish heritage made him well suited to a period when the UK would need to lead on the world stage.
"Above all, Boris is a great optimist," he said.
"Brexit is a unique opportunity, and it needs to be realised with a buoyant vision of our future.
"We need a leader who rejects the grindingly depressing politics of managed decline. We need a leader who will inspire confidence in our country at home and generate excitement abroad."