PHILIP Hammond has mocked three Brexiter hopefuls for the Tory leadership by reminding a high-powered American audience how they self-destructed the last time around.

The Chancellor said Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who started the 2016 contest as allies then spectacularly fell out, formed an “unintended suicide pact” that killed them both.

Mr Hammond also said Andrea Leadsom had “knifed herself” when she suggested she would be a better PM because Theresa May was childless, and been forced to give up.

The remarks, delivered at the British Embassy in Washington DC on Friday, come as speculation about who will replace Mrs May in Downing Street intensifies.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said at the weekend Mrs May should go, and there were reports the party’s rules could be changed to allow her to be ousted soon.

At the moment, Mrs May cannot be challenged until December, a year after she survived the last internal confidence vote on her future.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, seen as the current frontrunner, also took a swipe at his predecessor on a visit to Japan.

He said: “There is one very big difference between me and Boris, which is that I am Foreign Secretary and I have a very big job to do to try and get this deal over the line.”

Mr Hunt, who backed Remain but has since converted to Brexit, said getting agreement at Westminster over Brexit should be the priority, not a leadership contest.

The Telegraph reported that Mr Hammond said in his Washington speech that the Conservatives had “the joy of a leadership contest ahead", joking that he might be the only Tory MP not standing in it.

He said: “If you remember last time this happened in 2016, Gove and Johnson knifed each other in an unintended suicide pact. Which left just Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May,

“And then Andrea Leadsom knifed herself in a private suicide pact and Theresa May inherited the prime ministership without anybody casting a single vote.”

Mrs Leadsom, now leader of the Commons, had suggested in an interview that she would be better at the job then Mrs May because she was a mother, a jibe seen as unworthy of a would-be PM.

A Treasury source said Mr Hammond's remarks were intended to be light-hearted.

However they nevertheless touch on the competence and trustworthiness of the Brexiters.

Mr Gove, now the environment secretary, was supposed to lead Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign, then turned on him and ran for the leadership himself.

Mr Hunt also warned continued Brexit “paralysis” could be “highly damaging” to the UK.

He said that “whatever the outcome of Brexit”, the UK would plough on and be a success. But he added: "It is absolutely clear that Brexit paralysis, if it continues for a long time, will he highly damaging to our international standing.

"People's view about Britain is that this is a big country, an important country, and of course we can plough our own furrow and make it a success post-Brexit, but they are worried we will become submerged in the mire of Brexit indecision, and that could be very damaging."

He said rather than getting "sidetracked" into a debate on whether Mrs May should quit, MPs should focus on Brexit. He said he had a "very big job to do" and that had to be his focus instead of possible leadership bids."

Writing in the Telegraph on Monday, Mr Johnson tried to put the divisions of Brexit behind him, by describing himself as an inclusive "One Nation" Tory.

Digital Minister Margot James said she would not serve under Mr Johnson if was leader.

She told BBC Radio 4: "I wouldn't serve under Boris Johnson. Not just because his Brexit views, but because of his performance as foreign secretary as well which I felt really let the country down."