Britain’s Conservative Party lawmakers Tuesday knocked out former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch from the race to be UK’s next prime minister.
At the end of the latest ballot, former treasury chief Rishi Sunak came out on top with 118 votes, with ex-defence secretary Penny Mordaunt finishing second with 92. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was placed third after getting 86 votes.
Truss has picked up the most votes since her last tally of 71.
The contest was triggered after Boris Johnson resigned as Tory leader amid a party revolt following months of ethics scandals and government ministers began resigning en masse.
Johnson will remain in office as a caretaker prime minister until his replacement as party chief is chosen.
On Wednesday, the field of candidates will narrow down to the final two.
Sunak launched his leadership bid with a campaign video in which he promised to confront the difficult economic crisis with “honesty, seriousness and determination”, rather than piling the burden on future generations.
Sunak, 42, became finance minister in early 2020 and was praised for a Covid-19 economic rescue package, including a costly jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment.
But he later faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households. Revelations this year about his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status, and a fine he received for breaking Covid lockdown rules, have somewhat dented his standing.
His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favour lower taxes.
Brexit: Sunak voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum
Promise: Focus on rebuilding economy, no tax cuts till public finances improve
The former defence secretary was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she endorsed his rival during the 2019 leadership contest.
Mordaunt, 49, was a passionate supporter of leaving the EU and has said that she would aim to deliver the benefits of Brexit and recover from recent economic shocks such as the pandemic.
Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the Covid lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful” and has said that if she is prime minister, leadership will change to be less about the leader.
Brexit: Was supporter of the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum
Promise: VAT cut on fuel, promise to raise income tax thresholds in line with inflation
The foreign secretary has been the darling of the Conservative Party’s grassroots and has topped several polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home.
Truss, 46, has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, echoing a famous 1986 photo of Thatcher.
She spent the first two years of Johnson’s premiership as international trade secretary and is now in charge of dealing with the EU over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, where she has taken an increasingly tough line in negotiations.
Brexit: Initially campaigned against Brexit but after the 2016 referendum said she had changed her mind
Promise: Tax cuts, rollback of the National Insurance increase