Liz Truss will battle Rishi Sunak for the keys to No10 after they claimed the top two spots in a nailbiting vote by MPs today.
The Foreign Secretary edged out Penny Mordaunt following a frantic day of wooing and horse-trading at Westminster.
Ms Truss was six behind in the fourth round of voting yesterday, but seemingly managed to win over the bulk of Kemi Badenoch’s backers – racking up another 27 endorsements to leapfrog the trade minister with 113 to 105.
Mr Sunak topped the vote again with 137, up 19 on the last stage.
Tory leadership election: Round Five
Rishi Sunak: 137 (+19)
Liz Truss: 113 (+27)
Penny Mordaunt: 105 (+13)
The pair will now go forward to the head-to-head ballot of Tory members, with the winner set to be announced on September 5 – and take over from Boris Johnson the following day.
Their first major clashes are due to be in a BBC TV debate on Monday night.
Allies of Ms Truss have pointed out that she kicks off the race from a strong position, with a YouGov survey showing that she would beat Mr Sunak by a comfortable margin of 54:35.
Ms Mordaunt fought hard to stay in contention – and was given hope with one of her declared supporters, Tobias Ellwood, having the whip restored temporarily so he could vote.
However, she could not gather enough support to stave off the challenge from her more senior rival.
A jubilant Ms Truss posed for photographs with backers, including Attorney General Suella Braverman, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey. The elated group held ‘Liz for leader’ and ‘Trusted to Deliver’ placards.
When someone asked if she was ready for a gruelling month, she quipped: ‘I can’t get enough of hustings.’
In a statement, Ms Mordaunt said paid tribute to the ‘friends and colleagues who backed me’ and her team who ‘worked all hours’ to push her case.
‘I also want to congratulate both Rishi and Liz in getting through to the next stage. I pay tribute to anyone who puts themselves forward for such a demanding role. Politics isn’t easy. It can be a divisive and difficult place. We must all now work together to unify our party and focus on the job that needs to be done,’ she said.
‘I am a One Nation, proud Brexiteer. My campaign put forward a positive vision for the country I love so much, remembering who we are here to serve. Our mission is not only to deliver on what we promised but to win the fight against Labour at the next general election. I hope to play my part in both.’
A Sunak campaign source said: ‘This is a really strong result with a clear mandate from MPs.
‘He will now work night and day to get the mandate from the wider Conservative party family to beat Labour, protect the Union and seize the opportunities of Brexit.
‘The choice for members is very simple: who is the best person to beat Labour at the next election? The evidence shows that’s Rishi.’
In other twists and turns in the Westminster hothouse today:
- The Cabinet Secretary has launched an investigation into allegations that civil service material has been leaked to damage Ms Mordaunt;
- Ms Mordaunt tweeted and then deleted a link to an article warning votes for her rivals would ‘murder’ the Conservative Party;
- There are claims that around 2,000 Tory members have written to the party chair asking for Boris Johnson to be included on the leadership ballot;
- Tory members will be able to change their votes during the contest, even after they have sent an initial decision by post;
- Taking his last PMQs in the Commons as parliament prepares to go into summer recess, Mr Johnson joked that he is ‘not following’ the Tory leadership battle ‘particularly closely’ but all the candidates would ‘wipe the floor’ with Labour;
- The PM swiped at the Treasury saying it did not want to build the M25 or Channel Tunnel, and signed off by saying ‘mission largely accomplished… for now’;
- Mr Sunak has unveiled plans for energy reforms to make the UK self-sufficient but insisted he will not relax tough rules on onshore wind farm;
- Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of being a ‘complete bullsh*****’ who ‘took the p***’ out of the public with his Partygate explanations.
The three candidates (pictured centre, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss) posed with the 1922 committee executive as they waited for the result this afternoon
Liz Truss overhauled Penny Mordaunt in the final round, having trailed behind her throughout the contest
The result was announced by 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady in the House of Commons this afternoon
Boris Johnson took his last PMQs today with Liz Truss present – albeit a few places away from the outgoing leader. But Mr Sunak seemed to give the session a miss
HOW THE TORY LEADERSHIP RACE WILL PLAY OUT
Today – A fifth ballot of Tory MPs has decided Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will be the final pair, ending the parliamentary phase of the contest.
Tomorrow – MPs will head away from Westminster for their summer break.
Late July and August – CCHQ will assume responsibility for leadership election and will send out ballot papers to around 200,000 Conservative Party members. The Tory grassroots will be asked to decide between the final two candidates, with hustings events to be held across the UK.
5th September – The result of the membership ballot is announced, with the candidate receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote being declared the new Tory leader and Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister.
6th September – The new Tory leader is likely to be formally appointed as PM during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
7th September – The new PM is set to be quizzed in the House of Commons in their first ever Prime Minister’s Questions.
Ms Truss said: ‘I would like to thank each and every one of my colleagues who have supported me throughout this stage of this contest. I would also like to pay tribute to every candidate who stood for the leadership. Each of them has contributed enormously to the Conservative Party and to public life.
‘I am excited to now take to the country to make the case to the Conservative Party about my bold new economic plan that will cut taxes, grow our economy and unleash the potential of everyone in our United Kingdom.
‘As Prime Minister I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the Party and govern in line with Conservative values.
‘I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Conservative and Unionist Party and am excited to spend the next few weeks proving to all of our brilliant members exactly why I am the right person to lead it, and our great nation.’
Ex-Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith, who backed Ms Truss, said he hoped the Tories will reunite after the contest.
Referring to looming TV debates between the contenders, he told Sky News: ‘They will be quite fierce but I don’t think they’re going to get personal.
‘I would advise everybody: policy; yes – debates about how you do stuff. But stay off the personal stuff.’
Sir Iain insisted a general election was neither ‘wanted or warranted’ once the Tories choose a new leader.
Tory former Cabinet minister Liam Fox, a supporter of Mr Sunak, hailed ‘quite an emphatic vote’ for the ex-Chancellor.
He called for an end to ‘blue-on-blue’ warfare as the leadership contest moves to the next stage.
‘I hope that what we’ll see is the campaigns promoting the values of their own candidates and we’ll see none of this blue-on-blue attack and this will be a campaign about why each candidate is best placed to be the Prime Minister,’ he told the BBC.
Senior MP Charles Walker, who backed Ms Mordaunt, said he was ‘absolutely gutted as they say in football parlance’ about her defeat.
‘She was subject to some really hostile and unpleasant briefing – way over the top,’ he told the BBC.
‘She met that with a smile and good grace. I’m disappointed but not surprised that some of my colleagues and some in the media chose to behave in that way. That’s modern politics.’
Mr Walker suggested Ms Mordaunt was subject to hostile attacks because she had been a surprise contender.
‘She hadn’t figured in many of my colleagues plans and therefore they were frightened they might not figure in her plans,’ he added.
‘If she won, maybe they wouldn’t get the job they were looking for, or the preferment, or the ministerial position.
‘That’s politics – people thinking often, not always, but often about which of the candidates will be best for my career.’
On another breathless day of intrigue, Mr Sunak propelled himself over the line with a promise to make the UK self-sufficient in energy production by 2045.
But the former chancellor said he would scrap a plan to relax the ban on new onshore wind farms in England, instead focusing on offshore turbines.
The proposal has been unpopular with MPs in the Tory shires, although polls suggest the public are broadly in favour.
Under Mr Sunak’s blueprint plan a new ‘energy sovereignty’ target for 2045 would be written in to law.
An energy security committee would co-ordinate action to keep power stations online, protect gas reserves and reform markets to cut consumers’ bills.
A dedicated energy ministry would be formed by breaking up the current Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Mr Sunak said: ‘As energy bills skyrocket in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has never been more important that our country achieves energy sovereignty, so that we’re no longer reliant on the volatility of the global energy supply.
‘That’s why as Prime Minister I would introduce an ambitious new plan to make the UK energy independent, investing in vital new technologies. ‘
A Truss campaign source said she Truss was ‘in the driving seat’ to reach the run-off although ‘there’s a lot of work still to do’.
Yesterday’s vote left outsider Kemi Badenoch as a potential kingmaker after she was knocked out. Rival candidates were battling to secure the crucial backing of her 59 supporters.
Mrs Badenoch is on the Tory Right and the Foreign Secretary’s team believe at least 22 of her supporters are sympathetic to Ms Truss’s cause.
In an early sign of success, defence minister Leo Docherty switched from Mrs Badenoch to Ms Truss last night, saying: ‘I’ve seen at first hand her deep experience and sound judgement and know she has a credible plan.’
Ms Mordaunt was busy making calls to supporters of Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch, who had been eliminated from the leadership race, in a last-ditch attempt to gain the support needed to secure a place in the run-off.
Boris bows out at final PMQs… but hints it might only be ‘for now’
Boris Johnson today bowed out of his final PMQs with fresh attacks on Sir Keir Starmer and a swipe at his possible successor Rishi Sunak, as he told MPs: ‘Hasta la vista, baby’.
The outgoing Prime Minister was afforded a standing ovation by Tory MPs – although not from the Labour benches or from his predecessor Theresa May – at the end of this afternoon’s session.
It came less than two weeks after he was forced to announce his resignation following a revolt against his leadership from within his Conservative ranks.
In his departing words, Mr Johnson issued a dig at his ex-Chancellor – with Mr Sunak having been among the torrent of ministers who recently quit the PM’s administration – and gave a warning to those Tory MPs who rebelled against him.
In advice to whoever replaces him, the PM said: ‘Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear view mirror and remember above all it’s not Twitter that counts – it’s the people that sent us here.’
Mr Johnson also urged the next Tory leader to ‘stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere’.
‘Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is,’ he added.
‘I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.’
Mr Johnson dropped a hint he could attempt a political comeback, telling MPs his premiership had been ‘mission largely accomplished, for now’.
A campaign source said this morning: ‘As the only one not in Johnson’s cabinet, Penny is the sole MP left in the race who offers a genuine fresh start. Not every candidate would win an election, but time and time again the polls show that Penny is the candidate Labour fear the most.
‘MPs have a choice today – the same old or a new start for the Conservative Party.
‘Their colleagues, party members, and voters across the country are crying out for something new but only Penny Mordaunt can deliver that.’
Treasury minister Simon Clarke said he wanted MPs to back Ms Truss for ‘positive’ reasons.
‘I think she has the most exciting plan for economic growth and she set out a compelling plan to lower the burden of taxation.’
‘I have very high regard for Rishi Sunak,’ he insisted. ‘I am here to make the case for what I think is the right future step in terms of where we go from here and that is for a Government led by Liz Truss.’
A Truss campaign spokesman said: ‘Now is the time for the party to unite behind a candidate who will govern in a Conservative way and who has shown she can deliver time and again.
‘Liz has a bold new economic agenda that will immediately tackle the cost of living crisis, boost economic growth and continue leading the global fight for freedom in Ukraine.’
One former minister who is not cheerleading for any particular candidate told MailOnline that they thought whomever gets into the run-off would defeat Mr Sunak.
‘I don’t think the membership will vote for him. He is very competent and able, but not popular with our activists. The other candidate would have to implode,’ they said.
The Cabinet Secretary has launched a investigation into allegations of leaking of information within the civil service, apparently intended to damage Ms Mordaunt’s campaign.
In a letter to Tory MP and Mordaunt-backer David Davis, Simon Case wrote: ‘Thank you for your letter of 17 July, raising your concerns about the apparent leaking of information designed to influence the Conservative leadership election.
‘I have been very clear in writing with the civil service that it is paramount that public resources are not used to support leadership campaigns during the Conservative Party leadership election.
‘Further to that, unauthorised disclosure of government information to the media is clearly inappropriate. In light of these facts and the concerns you raise, I can confirm that I have launched a leak investigation into this matter.
‘The investigation will be completed as quickly as possible given the importance of the subject.’
Ms Mordaunt was at Mr Johnson’s last PMQs in the Commons this afternoon
Either Ms Truss or Ms Mordaunt would have started a run-off campaign from a good position, as a YouGov survey has indicated they could comfortably defeat Mr Sunak
YouGov research suggested that Ms Mordaunt would have lost to Ms Truss in a run-off of party members
There were fears the contest could be undermined by ‘vote lending’ between the rival teams, with suspicions focused on Mr Sunak’s campaign aide Gavin Williamson. Mr Sunak’s team deny underhand tactics – and insist that Sir Gavin has no formal role.
Another Conservative MP said: ‘There is a concerted effort I think to try to make sure that Rishi doesn’t face Liz in the final.’
However, former Cabinet minister David Davis accused Mr Sunak of helping Ms Truss in order to squeeze out Ms Mordaunt.
‘There’s clearly been some transfer of votes, presumably from Rishi to Liz,’ he told LBC Radio. ‘Rishi just reallocated some. He’s got his four or five chief whips that he has in a boiler room to reallocate them. He wants to fight Liz because she’s the person who will lose the debate with him.’
A Sunak-supporting MP denied wrongdoing, saying: ‘We are encouraging every colleague who wants Rishi to win to vote for him.’
The Maharajah of the Dales v Insta-Liz: Tory leadership contest pits super-rich former chancellor Rishi Sunak against Thatcher-channelling Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the battle for No10
The Westminster bickering and backstabbing is over in the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.
After five rounds of voting by Tory MPs, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will battle it out in a head-to-head to replace Boris Johnson in September.
They will spend the rest of the summer wooing Conservative Party members, who will decide which of them will gain the keys to No10 and the power and pain they bring.
It pits Mr Johnson’s former chancellor, 42, whose resignation was a major trigger in his downfall, against the incumbent Foreign Secretary, 46, who has spent months, if not years, tacitly campaigning to become the UK’s third female PM.
The two have widely differing personal backgrounds and pitches to the limited Tory selectorate who will choose the leader of a nation of 70 million people.
Here MailOnline analyses who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
- Ex-banker who was Chancellor until resigning a fortnight ago
- 42-year-old married father of two
- Strengths: Long-standing Brexit supporter who kept economy afloat in pandemic
- Weaknesses: Has faced questions about his personal wealth and was behind recent tax rises
- Foreign Secretary who has also been international trade secretary and Lord Chancellor
- 46-year-old married mother of two
- Strengths: Popular with Tory grassroots for championing low taxes and free trade
- Weaknesses: Backed Remain but now claims she regrets her decision