Boris Johnson "is like a general that led his army to the sound of guns and at the sight of the battlefield, abandoned the field", Michael Heseltine has said. The former deputy prime minister unleashed the stinging attack on Johnson after the ex mayor of London ruled himself out of the Tory leadership race, despite leading the charge for a Brexit.

"I think there will be a profound sense of dismay and frankly contempt," Lord Heseltine told BBC Radio 5 Live. "He's ripped the party apart. He's created the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times. He's knocked billions off the value of the nation's savings."

He added: "This is a free society; there's no question of punishment. He must live with the shame of what he's done." Johnson pulled out of the leadership contest earlier today (30 June) after Michael Gove made a surprise bid to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

The justice secretary claimed Johnson "cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead", despite the pair campaigning together for months for Britain to leave the EU.

Just days earlier Heseltine said Johnson, Gove and Ukip leader Nigel Farage are the only ones with the "credibility" to negotiate Britain's withdrawal from the EU. He warned that unless "they're seen to be in charge, they will simply say that the negotiators screwed it up".

Heseltine was unsparing in his criticism of Johnson, saying that while he won the referendum, he has now abandoned ship and left a trail of uncertainty. He added: "This process, which would not have happened without him, has now left a great gaping hole in the future of Britain's decision makers.

"Not just Britain's decision makers but all over the world, people thinking about investing in this country don't know what the future holds. The priority now is for that question to be answered and quickly. We cannot just let this thing drift as everyone makes speeches and pontificates."

Five candidates are now vying for the Tory leadership to succeed David Cameron as prime minister. They are: Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox.