Quote, unquote: The front runners (and their friends) weigh up whether to enter the race

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Ann Widdecombe

"There are quite a lot of people who would like me to run, that doesn't mean I can just jump in. I have got to take soundings to see how wide the support is. It would be very premature to make any decisions now."

Francis Maude

"Our party workers have just been through a magnificent campaign, where they have fought superbly. If they thought that all we were doing was worrying about our own personal positions, they would ­ rightly ­ be very fed up."

Kenneth Clarke

"Ken is a hugely popular figure. He is a very powerful politician and I think he would be terrific at exposing the Government's weaknesses. But he has to show how he would unite the party on Europe issue," said John Maples.

Michael Portillo

"He has been stitched up by William Hague. He is now almost forced to go for the job," said a friend of Mr Portillo, who is understood to be considering his next move while taking a break in Morocco.

Iain Duncan Smith

"I don't know what I might do. We have plenty of time; the contest cannot even start until the end of June ... What is wrong with the party is pretty clear ­ it is representative of a very small group of people. We have to modernise."

John Redwood

"He has not ruled it out. He has not ruled it in. He is very much of the view that colleagues should sit down and talk before doing anything," said a friend of John Redwood, on the subject of a possible third leadership bid.