Releasing a short statement on social media, Fletcher said: “I’ve been listening to the candidates and to my constituents. I’ve come to a decision. I’m voting for Kemi Badenoch.
“She has the strength of character for leadership and a clear vision for the country. She’s the one for me.”
Badenoch, who represents the rural Essex constituency of Saffron Walden, was first elected in 2017 but is seen as a rising star in the Conservative party.
Before announcing her bid to replace Boris Johnson, Badenoch was Minister of State for Local Government, Faith and Communities and held a position in the Treasury.
She made the announcement to run in an article for The Times in which she said she wanted to ‘tell the truth’ and advocated ‘strong but limited government’.
Badenoch also called the target of net zero carbon emissions ‘ill-thought through’ and said politicians had become ‘hooked on the idea of the state fixing the majority of problems’.
In her pitch, she said Winter Fuel Payments would be ‘means tested’ and strip the payment from hundreds of thousands of pensioners ‘that can afford it’.
She launched her campaign at an event held on July 12.
On her campaign website, Badenoch said: “In 2016 and 2019 our country voted for change, yet still a sense that things aren’t working remains.
“If we are to see that change, we need leadership which starts from principle.
“Our economic and social challenges are two sides of the same coin; the fiercest proclaimers of ‘social justice’ usually also believe in the power of government over people.
“We need the discipline to transform government into an effective and streamlined machine which actually works for ordinary communities.
“We need a strong but limited government focused on doing some things well, not lots of things badly. I can deliver that change.”
The eight MPs who have got through to the first round are:
• Rishi Sunak• Penny Mordaunt• Tom Tugendhat• Liz Truss• Suella Braverman• Jeremy Hunt• Kemi Badenoch• Nadhim Zahawi
Voting by other Conservative MPs to whittle down the first round candidates will take place on Wednesday (July 13), with candidates then needing 30 backers.
Those candidates will face successive rounds of voting from Thursday – and most likely until the end of next week – until there are only two left.
About 160,000 Conservative party members will then vote for one of the final two and the result is to be announced on September 5.