TORY MPs are lining up behind potential leadership candidates after Theresa May announced her intention to resign.

Mrs May said she would stand down as party leader on June 7, triggering a leadership contest to decide the next prime minister.

Poole MP Sir Robert Syms and his Mid-Dorset and North Poole counterpart Michael Tomlinson will both be backing Dominic Raab as leader, while Bournemouth West’s Conor Burns is endorsing Boris Johnson.

Mr Tomlinson was Mr Raab’s parliamentary private secretary for less than 48 hours last November before his boss quit as Brexit secretary.

Mr Tomlinson said: “The prime minister has worked incredibly hard and no one doubts her hard work or integrity, but I think she absolutely made the right decision to move on.”

He said Mr Raab was “someone who believes in the future of our country outside the EU”.

Bournemouth West’s Conor Burns said: “I had come to believe that the prime minister continuing in office was really serving no purpose. Having had her withdrawal agreement defeated three times and with no hope of the bill she was proposing to introduce going through, I thought it was time she stepped down and made way for us to have a quick debate about the way forward and let somebody else have a go.”

Polls show Mr Johnson to be favourite among party members, but only the two candidates with the most support among MPs will be on the ballot paper.

Poole MP Sir Robert Syms welcomed Mrs May’s statement. “She tried all she could to get her deal through and I think the big mistake she made – apart from calling the general election in 2017 – was that she extended the Brexit deadline in March,” he said.

“If you say you’re going to leave in March 108 times and don’t do it, then constituents take the view that either you’re being dishonest or incompetent and both of those factors are deadly for a political party.”

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope had not decided whom he would support as leader.

“I think everyone has mixed emotions when a prime minister has to resign in these circumstances, but Mrs May has done the right thing. It is a tragedy that she didn’t see the writing on the wall sooner," he said.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “I’m sad it’s come to this. While she didn’t deliver on the key issue, which is why we’re in this terrible mess, there’s no doubt Mrs May had integrity in many areas and tried her level best as a public servant so we should give her credit for that.”

He said he had a preferred leadership contender but was keeping the name private until the candidates had been tested at hustings.