Iain Duncan Smith has called for a re-writing of the Conservative leadership contest rules to avoid “chaos”.
Eleven MPs have declared so far that they will run to replace Theresa May, with the number expected to rise.
Mr Duncan Smith, who led the Tories from 2001 to 2003, told the BBC the number of MPs needed to nominate a candidate had to be increased.
And the party must look at eliminating more runners during early voting in order to speed up the contest, he said.
At the moment, only two MPs need to nominate a candidate for them to stand. Mr Duncan Smith said that threshold should rise to “10, maybe 12”.
“We need to present a face of a party that actually can get jobs done,” he said. “We don’t want to have this meandering around looking like chaos.”
He added: “I have never seen so many people lining up and there may be more.”
The contest gets fully under way on 7 June, when Mrs May stands down as Conservative leader.
MPs will hold a series of votes, during which the field will be whittled down one by one each time. When two candidates are left, they will go to a full vote of the Conservative Party membership.
Mr Duncan Smith suggested that, instead, two or three candidates should be removed in each round of the ballots held by Tory MPs, in order to “accelerate the process”.
The executive of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs – which sets the contest rules – is expected to meet next Monday to discuss the issue.
The winner is expected to be announced in late July.
Mr Duncan Smith said only those with significant political experience should put their names forward.
“We have to be very focused that the person who wins this will, the day after, be the prime minister and have to pick up the pieces of Brexit and all the other elements,” he said.
“And that’s got to require someone who really knows where they are going.”
Mr Duncan Smith ran against four other candidates when he was elected Tory leader under the same rules in 2001. He had previously held two shadow cabinet roles but had no experience of government at the time, having become an MP in 1992. He was ousted in 2003 after he lost a vote of no confidence.
What the candidates are saying
Meanwhile, Tory leadership hopeful Esther McVey told Sky News that parents should be able to take their children out of LGBT education in primary school.
Asked about the row over the issue in Birmingham, Ms McVey told Sky News that people “shouldn’t be protesting outside primary schools”. But she said: “I believe parents know best for their children, and whilst they’re still children… then really the parents need to have the final say in what they want their children to know.”
Fellow Tory MP Justine Greening responded: “You can’t pick & choose on human rights & equality. Children should understand a modern and diverse Britain they’re growing up in.”
Elsewhere, Chancellor Philip Hammond said he would not “feel the need” to join the list of candidates if his views were “properly represented”.
And International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who is running for the leadership, apologised for smoking opium – a class A drug in the UK – in Iran.
His admission came days after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – another leadership candidate – told the Times that he had once drunk a cannabis lassi while backpacking through India.
When asked at a press conference in London whether too many people were running to replace her, Mrs May said the UK was a “land of opportunity”.
The declared candidates are:
- Brexit minister James Cleverly
- Environment Secretary Michael Gove
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock
- Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
- Home Secretary Sajid Javid
- Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
- Former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom
- Housing minister Kit Malthouse
- Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey
- Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab
- International Development Secretary Rory Stewart
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