A Tory leadership contender said he “invaded a country once” when asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done.

Former soldier Tom Tugendhat, who served in Iraq, gave the response during a quick fire round at the end of his interview on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

The Tonbridge MP’s answer was in sharp contrast to that famously given by vicar’s daughter and then prime minister Theresa May, who once confessed to “running through fields of wheat” as a child.

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In absence of ministerial experience, the 49-year-old chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has highlighted his frontline military service in setting out his credentials to replace Boris Johnson in Downing Street, amid a crowded and growing field of candidates.

Asked by Ridge about the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Mr Tugendhat said: “Well, I invaded a country once.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who has also thrown his hat into the ring, was less forthcoming when the question was put to him, telling Ridge: “I’m not terribly naughty actually.

“I haven’t done any cornfields or anything like that.

“I’m not a natural rebel.”

As well as Iraq, where he survived being shot twice in a “friendly fire” incident, Mr Tugendhat also served in Afghanistan, as both a soldier and a civilian for the Foreign Office, where he helped set up the country’s national security council.

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He was deeply critical of the withdrawal of US-led western forces that led to the Taliban regaining power, highlighting the anger, grief and rage felt by veterans at the “abandonment” of Afghanistan.

Urging a “clean start” after the Johnson years, Mr Tugendhat told Ridge: “The reality is that we need the government and the Conservative party to return to the service of the people.”

He said of the top job for which he is vying: “It’s not an entry level position but it’s not a management position either, it’s a leadership position and the reality is that my entire career has been about serving our country.”