National MP Mark Mitchell has thrown his support behind his longtime friend Rory Stewart to become the UK's next Prime Minister.

In a lengthy Facebook post last night, Mitchell spoke about Stewart's "backbone made of steel" and his courage and leadership under fire when the pair worked in Iraq almost 20 years ago.

Before becoming an MP, Mitchell was a security contractor in the Middle East.

He does not speak publically about those years these days and in the post, said speaking about the period was not something he would usually do.

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But he said he did it because he wanted to endorse and support a "good mate of mine", referring to Stewart.

Stewart is the International Development Secretary in the UK and has thrown his hat in the ring to take over as the next leader of the Conservative Party, and become the UK's Prime Minister.

Mitchell said he and Stewart have been friends for 15 years.

They first met when they were serving on a team tasked with setting up government elections, the courts and training the Iraqi Police.

Mitchell was part of Stewart's protection teams – Stewart was the Deputy Governor.

Because of the nature of his job, and the environment he was operating in, Stewart and his team faced frequent attacks, Mitchell said.

"I developed a great respect for Rory over this time because it became very apparent that he worked hard to build bridges and absolutely practised the power of communication – even with people he knew wanted to kill him."

Stewart's leadership was on display when their compound came under attack one night, Mitchell said.

Militants were given the order to attack coalition compounds across the country – "it felt like every terrorist in Iraq came for the party".

Roy Stewart is the International Development Secretary in the UK and has thrown his hat in the ring to take over as the next leader of the Conservative Party, and as the UK's PM. Photo / Devin Murphy
Roy Stewart is the International Development Secretary in the UK and has thrown his hat in the ring to take over as the next leader of the Conservative Party, and as the UK's PM. Photo / Devin Murphy

In the Facebook post, Mitchell describes an intense night of fighting to keep their compound safe from "hundreds of pumped-up insurgents".

"While all this was going on Rory's composure and leadership is what helped keep a sense of calm, organisation and focus in what was a situation completely out of control," Mitchell said.

"He worked hard to get us air support. He monitored food, water and ammunition supplies and kept us updated."

Mitchell said it would be very hard to find anyone who has worked with Stewart to say anything other than he is a man that gets things done.

"[He] has a backbone made of steel and will always fight for those who aren't there to fight for themselves.

"I am proud to call him a friend and have no doubt that he would be a strong, fair and in-touch Prime Minister."

At the moment, former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the front runner for the top job and, in the Facebook post, Mitchell admits this.

But he said Stewart's campaign really reflects him as an intelligent thoughtful man of the people.