Boris Johnson has topped the first ballot of Tory MPs in the party’s leadership race, as the number of candidates was cut from ten to seven.
Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey all failed to secure the backing of the required 17 MPs to continue in the contest and have been eliminated.
Johnson won the votes of 114 MPs in Thursday’s secret ballot, ahead of Jeremy Hunt in second place with 43 votes.
Johnson’s vote tally is more than the number he would need to progress to the final two.
The result adds to the feeling the former foreign secretary’s ascent to No.10 is unstoppable. But rival campaigns have pointed out the early frontrunner frequently does not win Tory leadership contests.
Result of the first ballot
Boris Johnson: 114
Jeremy Hunt: 43
Michael Gove: 37
Dominic Raab: 27
Sajid Javid: 23
Matt Hancock: 20
Rory Stewart: 19
Andrea Leadsom: 11 (Eliminated)
Mark Harper: 10 (Eliminated)
Esther McVey: 9 (Eliminated)
Theresa May, when asked by reporters how she voted, told them: “That’s none of your business.”
The second round of voting will take place on Tuesday June 18 where the remaining candidates will need 33 votes to stay in the contest.
If all the contenders reach this threshold the one with the fewest votes is eliminated.
The voting continues until just two remain. Further ballots are scheduled to take place on Wednesday June 19 and Thursday June 20.
The final two will then campaign around the country for the votes of Conservative Party members - with the winner announced on July 22.
THANK YOU - to all my colleagues who voted for me. We can win this. Realism, action, unity, trust. Thank you #RoryWalksOn— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) June 13, 2019
Thanks so much for the fantastic support - terrific to have more votes from colleagues than I could have hoped for #letsmoveforward— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 13, 2019
McVey, who came last in today’s ballot, said she would speak to the remaining candidates to see who was “best to deliver” a “clean break” from the EU.
“Whoever becomes the new leader will certainly receive my support,” she said.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who is supporting Johnson, rejected the suggestion the contest was all but over.
“The one lesson you learn from Conservative leadership contests if you never take anything for granted,” he said. “There is a lot to do still.”
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary who is backing Hunt, said he had a “clear lead in second place”.
And she said the fact Johnson was leading among MPs was “as nothing” when it came to the membership.
Raab, who has positioned himself as a more hardline Brexiteer than Johnson, said his campaign was “just getting started”.
“I’m the change candidate who can be trusted to deliver Brexit by October, and has the vision and energy to take Britain forward, and beat Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
A poll of party members for ConHome today revealed Johnson was way out in front with the backing of 54% of the grassroots.
Stewart, who has run an energetic insurgent campaign, grabbed the surprise second spot with 11%.