Rishi Sunak on Thursday won the second round of ballot in the Conservative leadership race with 101 votes – the most by any contestant so far – tightening his grip on the race to replace Boris Johnson as party leader and British Prime Minister.
There are now five candidates left in the Tory leadership contest after Suella Braverman, the Indian-origin Attorney General in the fray, was knocked off the shortlist with the least votes at 27.
Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt (83 votes), Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (64 votes), former minister Kemi Badenoch (49 votes) and Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat (32 votes) remain on the ballot in the narrowing race after the second round of votes were cast by lawmakers.
Soon after 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady read out the results of the latest tally after 356 votes were cast by Tory MPs in a House of Commons committee room, 42-year-old Sunak said he was “incredibly grateful” to the colleagues who backed him.
“I am prepared to give everything I have in service to our nation. Together we can restore trust, rebuild our economy and reunite the country,” he said.
The next few rounds of voting among Conservative Party members of Parliament to whittle this list down to just two by next Thursday is scheduled for early next week.
All eyes will now be on which way Braverman and her backers will swing, handing those 27 votes to shore up one of the remaining five.
“I’m convinced that I’m the best person to beat [Opposition Labour leader] Keir Starmer and secure that election victory,” Sunak said in an interview earlier.
The British Indian former Chancellor and son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy looks set to be among the final two candidates to hit the campaign trail around the UK for hustings to convince the wider Conservative Party membership ahead of a postal ballot to decide the winner.
At the end of next week, the Conservative Party headquarters will take over to oversee a one member, one vote process among Tories countrywide who have been registered with the party for at least three months.
While Penny Mordaunt has been in the lead in opinion polls among the party electorate base, some of her controversial views on LGBTQ+ rights have come under the scanner among her colleagues. A former Brexit minister, Lord David Frost, also expressed his doubts over her ability as a former minister in his team.
Liz Truss, who made a key policy speech just before Thursday’s vote, claims to be the only one who has been “ready to be Prime Minister from day one”.
The former Remainer, who campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU) in the 2016 referendum, has since taken a hardline stance and found the backing of many in the Brexit wing of the Tory party. It is believed that Braverman’s votes are likely to be divided between her and Mordaunt.
The race is now narrowing down into a three-way fight between Sunak, Mordaunt and Truss with the others expected to throw their weight behind one of these three campaigns in the hope of securing a good Cabinet post under a new leader.
Johnson’s successor will be known by September 5 and go on to address the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in Parliament on September 7.