The five surviving Tory leader hopefuls will cross swords for the first time tomorrow in a TV debate as the bookies’ favourite Penny Mordaunt came under withering attack designed to hobble her upstart campaign.
Channel 4 is hosting the first showdown for the prospective PMs after MPs voted in the second round of the contest – with former Chancellor Rishi Sunak coming top with 101 votes and Ms Mordaunt coming in second with 83 – adding 16 to her previous tally.
After another frenzied day at Westminster in which she pleaded for right-wingers to back her, Liz Truss was still well behind on 64, up 14, while Kemi Badenoch received 49, up nine.
Ms Mordaunt immediately came under attack from Suella Braverman, the rightwinger who was eliminated after finishing last in this afternoon’s vote by Tory MPs. The Attorney General made it clear she would not back Ms Mordaunt because of previous remarks on trans rights, and instead threw her weight behind Ms Truss.
Sources close to Ms Braverman told the PA news agency she made the decision after holding talks with Ms Truss.
‘My perception of Penny is she takes a different view to me when it comes to gender ideology and the position of trans, for example, I think she said a trans women is woman, I disagree with that,’ Mrs Braverman told BBC Radio 4’s PM. It was later reported that Mrs Braverman would back Ms Truss in the next round of voting.
However, it is expected that only around half of the 27 who voted for Mrs Braverman in today’s vote will back Ms Truss, with the rest of the votes going elsewhere in a potential blow to the Foreign Secretary’s chances.
Ms Badenoch said she is ‘disappointed’ that Mrs Braverman will back Ms Truss in the race to replace Boris Johnson.
Speaking to LBC on Thursday evening, she said: ‘I am disappointed. Suella and I are friends, I’m friends with Tom Tugendhat as well, Rishi and Liz were my senior ministers, so it’s all very close to home. We’re all friends, so every time someone supports one person there’s another person that’s been let down. But I’m in it to win it.
‘I know people want to support the person that they think is most likely to give them a job, or who has been there the longest, that’s the easy thing to do, the tough thing to do is to take a risk and try something different.’
Tory leadership race: Round two vote result
Rishi Sunak: 101 (+13)
Penny Mordaunt: 83 (+16)
Liz Truss: 64 (+14)
Kemi Badenoch: 49 (+9)
Tom Tugendhat: 32 (-5)
Suella Braverman: 27 (-5)
Ms Truss’s team have been heaping praise on Braverman, urging her 27 supporters to shift their allegiance to the Foreign Secretary. But it is far from clear which camp they will choose, with Ms Braverman telling Sky News that she would ‘take into account’ that Ms Truss voted Remain in 2016.
If she lines up behind fellow rightwinger Ms Badenoch, Ms Truss could find herself in fourth and in more danger of missing out in a place in the final two.
Another newly-available senior MP told MailOnline they were unimpressed with the options: ‘My boat is waiting to be floated.’
Tom Tugendhat, who has portrayed himself as the moderates’ champion, lost support with 32 votes. Although he insists he has no intention of pulling out, he will be favourite to exit in the next round on Monday.
Despite the attack, Ms Mordaunt looks in a strong position to reach the last two, who will go to a run-off ballot of Conservative members. She has been installed as the bookies’ favourite after bombshell polling suggested that she would win a head-to-head against any of her potential rivals.
The focus will now shift to the series of TV debates scheduled for the next few days, with Ms Truss under huge pressure to find a way of turning the tide. ITV’s version is happening on Sunday and Sky News on Monday.
In a dig at frontrunner Mr Sunak earlier, Ms Truss said she had been ‘loyal’ to Boris Johnson, and it was not the time for ‘business as usual economic management’.
She dodged questions on whether she was worried about the threat from Ms Mordaunt, who has become a surprise contender for the top job. But allies have taken the gloves off, branding the trade minister ‘untested’, ‘underwhelming’ and unable to ‘master detail’.
Ms Mordaunt built on the momentum she had from the first round, where she picked up support from 67 MPs compared to Mr Sunak’s 88, while Ms Truss had 50.
Treasury minister Simon Clarke said there was a limited pool of support Ms Truss could have plausibly won over from the supporters of the candidates eliminated in the first round. ‘This is very much on the trajectory we thought. We are attracting broad support from people across the party,’ he said.
Mr Tugendhat has joked that he feels like a ‘Prom Queen’ because he is being wooed so fervently by other hopefuls.
After the latest result Mr Sunak tweeted: ‘I am incredibly grateful for the continued support from my colleagues and the wider public. 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.’
As Ms Truss tried to claw back ground, her allies fired salvos at Ms Mordaunt this morning, with Lord Frost saying he asked for her to be sacked as his Brexit deputy and voicing ‘grave reservations’, while Mr Clarke swiped that the country ‘needs a leader who is tested and ready’.
One campaign source told MailOnline: ‘Just because Penny voted for Brexit doesn’t mean she can be trusted to deliver it. Her delivery record post-Brexit is incredibly underwhelming – can she be trusted to get things done?’
But Ms Truss said at her launch: ‘I certainly won’t be making any disparaging comments about my fellow candidates in the race.’
David Davis accused the Foreign Secretary of deploying the ‘dark arts’. ‘I wouldn’t describe it as friendly fire,’ he said.
‘My comment when I saw it earlier was it’s absolutely clockwork – you get to the point that somebody gets ahead and looks to be the real challenger, and then the black op starts, the incoming fire starts.’
A source close to Ms Mordaunt told MailOnline: ‘Penny has nothing but respect for Lord Frost. He did a huge amount to assist our negotiations until he resigned from Government.
‘Penny will always fight for Brexit and always has.’
Ms Truss said at the event in Westminster that she is ‘ready to be prime minister from day one’.
‘We are at a critical moment for our country,’ she said. ‘Now is the time to be bold, we cannot have business-as-usual economic management, which has led to low growth for decades.’
To shouts of ‘hear, hear’, she said that it was time to deliver on Brexit and ‘win the fight for freedom, at home and abroad’.
In the second round Rishi Sunak received 101 votes and Penny Mordaunt 83 – adding 16 to her previous tally – after another frenzied day at Westminster that saw Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appeal for the party’s right wing to unite behind her
Officially launching her campaign this morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appealed for Tories to unite behind her, saying she can be ‘trusted to deliver’ and can ‘hit the ground running’ after taking on the EU over Brexit and Vladimir Putin over Ukraine
The latest result was read out by 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady in the House of Commons this afternoon
Ms Braverman told Sky News that she would ‘take into account’ that Ms Truss voted Remain in 2016 – although she added she was ‘disappointed’ with Ms Mordaunt’s stance on trans issues
Ms Mordaunt seemed jubilant about her progress this morning, taking to Twitter to hail her ‘march’
What will happen next in the Tory leadership race?
The contest to be crowned the new Tory leader – and Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister – is in full swing.
Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee, has revealed that the winner will be known on 5th September.
But how will the party choose, between now and then, from the long list of contenders?
Here’s how the election process will work…
Today – The field was whittled down to five after Suella Braverman came bottom and was eliminated.
Next week – Up to three further rounds of ballots among Tory MPs will be held, eliminating the lowest scorer each time.
The final vote will decide which two of the final three contenders proceed to the next stage.
21st July – MPs will head away from Westminster for their summer break, meaning this is the deadline for a final pairing to be decided in the parliamentary stage of the leadership election.
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 will be formally appointed as PM during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
7th September – The new premier is set to be quizzed in the House of Commons in their first ever Prime Minister’s Questions.
As the temperature rose steadily at Westminster today, Mr Sunak stubbornly refused to bow to demands for immediate tax cuts – offered by some of his opponents – pointing to the country’s debt mountain.
‘I think our number one economic priority is to tackle inflation and not make it worse. Inflation is the enemy, it makes everybody poorer, and if we don’t act to tackle inflation now it will cost families more in the long run, especially with mortgages,’ he said.
‘I will get taxes down in this Parliament, but I’m going to do so responsibly.
‘Because I don’t cut taxes to win elections, I win elections to cut taxes, and I’m convinced that I’m the best person to beat Keir Starmer and the Labour Party at the next election.’
Mr Sunak also denied that his massive personal wealth meant he cannot understand the struggles of ordinary people.
‘I don’t judge people by their bank accounts, I judge them by their character and I think people can judge me by my actions over the past couple of years,’ he said.
‘Whenever I have needed to step in to support people I have and furlough is a fantastic example of that.
‘But what I would say as a Conservative is I believe in hard work and aspiration and that’s my story and if I’m prime minister then I’ll be making the case for that with vigour.’
He dismissed claims that ‘dirty tricks’ are being orchestrated by former chief whip Gavin Williamson on his behalf, stressing that Mel Stride has been running the parliamentary aspect of his campaign.
Asked what Sir Gavin’s role is, Mr Sunak said: ‘Like all the Members of Parliament who are on my team, they are talking to colleagues and making the case for my candidacy because they believe that I am the best person to beat Keir Starmer and the Labour Party and I’m really grateful for all their support.’
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi was ejected from the contest after failing to reach the minimum threshold of 30 votes, but has indicated he will not be endorsing any candidate.
A maximum of three more rounds will be needed to whittle the field down to the last pair.
At a press conference this morning, Mr Tugendhat said he ‘feels like a prom queen’ because of rival candidates were wooing him for support – but insisted he will not quit.
Asked why he was staying in the race, the MP said: ‘Where will this go? I don’t know, I can’t tell you.
‘But I can tell you that a lot of people – a lot of people – are looking at the options before them today and thinking differently about the votes they made yesterday and that’s not surprising.’
At a press conference in Westminster he added: ‘I offered to serve, and that’s what I’ll do, and it’s up to others to decide whether or not they they wish to have me.
‘That’s, I’m afraid, how democracy works. But I don’t quit.’
Ms Mordaunt’s new status is bringing intense scrutiny and she is already facing questions, including on whether she had changed her ‘woke’ views on trans rights in order to win support.
An ally of Ms Truss accused Ms Mordaunt of ‘telling lies’ over her views. ‘She is turning up at hustings claiming she never pushed trans rights when she was equalities minister when there are people in government who know that is not true,’ said the ally.
‘She is telling lies and if she gets in she will revert to type and split the party.’
Former Brexit minister Lord Frost told TalkTV he was ‘surprised she is where she is in this leadership race.’
‘I have worked with Penny… She was my deputy, notionally more than really in the Brexit talks last year,’ he said.
‘I’m sorry to say this, that I felt she did not master the detail that was necessary in the negotiations last year.
‘She wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the European Union when that was necessary. And I’m afraid she wasn’t sort of fully accountable.
Tom Tugendhat made clear he has no intention of pulling out of the Tory race after the latest round of voting
Lord Frost saying he asked for Penny Mordaunt to be sacked as his Brexit deputy and has ‘grave reservations’
A YouGov poll found the run-off margin for Penny Mordaunt against Rishi Sunak could be 67 per cent to 28 per cent, while the former Chancellor could lose 59 per cent to 25 per cent against Liz Truss
Minutes before MPs started voting in the first round of the leadership contest, YouGov research suggested Ms Mordaunt is the overwhelming favourite of activists
‘She wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was. And I’m afraid this became such a problem that after six months, I had to ask the Prime Minister to move her on and find somebody else to support me.’
Lord Frost said a PM needed to be ‘tough’ and ‘able to lead’, adding: ‘I’m talking only about my own experience with her, but on the basis of what I saw, I’m afraid I would have grave reservations about that.’
The result for Mr Sunak was considerably short of the thumping 114 votes Mr Johnson received in the first round of the 2019 contest – when there were fewer Tory MPs.
A YouGov poll found that Ms Mordaunt is the ‘clear favourite for next Conservative leader among party members’.
When Tory members were asked to choose their preferred, Ms Mordaunt convincingly topped the list with at 27 per cent of votes.
Ms Badenoch came a distant second at 15 per cent, followed by Mr Sunak and Ms Truss on 13 per cent each.
The survey also found Ms Mordaunt – who initially appeared an outsider – would defeat any competitor in a run off.
Her margin against Mr Sunak was projected to be 67 per cent to 28 per cent, while the he could lose 59 per cent to 25 per cent against Ms Truss.
However, separate research by Savanta ComRes tonight underlined the challenges Ms Mordaunt would face with the wider electorate. Just 11 per cent of the public and 16 per cent of Conservative voters could correctly identify her when shown a photo.
Mr Sunak also faced questions after failing to land the knockout blow his team had been expecting. While the former chancellor still looked on course to make the final run-off it was no longer clear that he would do so with a big mandate from fellow MPs.
Senior Tories have warned Ms Truss that to be confident of making the final run-off she must see off her rivals on the Tory Right.
Eurosceptic MPs were last night trying to persuade Mrs Braverman to withdraw.
One source said she faced ‘humiliation’ if she tried to continue.
But her team insisted she would battle on, with campaign manager Steve Baker saying: ‘We have not yet begun to fight. People underestimate Suella at their peril.’
Ms Badenoch also showed no signs of backing down. One source on her campaign said: ‘She is going to do it.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is backing Ms Truss, last night urged fellow Brexiteers to unite behind her and warned that divisions could allow Ms Mordaunt to slip through.
Calling for a ‘unite the Right’ candidate, Sir Iain said: ‘If common sense played any part in these things, it would be over in 24 hours. But of course it doesn’t.’
The runners and riders in the race to succeed Boris Johnson
- Super-rich father of two
- Married to Indian heiress
- Chancellor throughout the Covid pandemic
- Oversaw huge public spending
- Has pledged to cut taxes only when inflation and the economy are under control
- Bookies odds: 6/4 Favourite (William Hill odds)
In a slick campaign video launched on Friday, Mr Sunak announced his leadership bid with the message: ‘Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.’
One of the main front-runners the former chancellor’s rise from relative obscurity to household name came as he turned on the spending taps to protect jobs through the furlough scheme when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
His calm and measured delivery during televised Covid briefings, and his viral declaration of love for a popular soft drink, will have endeared him to those perhaps not always plugged in to the political goings-on, as well as his resignation on matters of principle on Tuesday.
A Brexit supporter from the off, he has attracted more than 30 declared supporters so far from within the Tory ranks, including from serving and ex-ministers Mark Spencer, Oliver Dowden and Robert Jenrick.
However his stock has taken a tumble recently following disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes, while she lived in Downing Street, and he held on to his US green card while serving in Government.
He has become the man to beat in the leadership race, and has already been the focus of concerted mud-slinging.
There have been claims that allies of Mr Johnson are aiming to stop Mr Sunak winning the Tory leadership contest over his ‘treachery’ in resigning from Government on Tuesday night – a move that precipitated the PM’s downfall.
According to the Telegraph, a 424-word criticism of Mr Sunak is being widely shared across Tory WhatsApp groups.
As well as claiming ‘there is nothing Conservative about the ‘Big Tax and Big Spend’ agenda of Rishi Sunak’, Mr Sunak is also branded a ‘liar’ and accused of ‘schoolboy errors’.
The ex-chancellor has also witnessed a TV clip of himself, from 20 years ago, talking about his circle of friends being ‘err… not working class’ go viral on social media.
Rishi Sunak was forced to deny links to ‘toxic’ former No10 adviser Dominic Cummings last night.
Mr Cummings has posted ‘poisonous’ claims online about Mr Sunak’s rivals for the Tory leadership, but the former Chancellor’s team insisted he had not spoken to the controversial adviser since he left No 10 in late 2020.
A rival Tory leadership campaign source said Mr Sunak should ‘come clean’ about whether his team had any links to Mr Cummings – or if they had been in contact with him.
- Former defence secretary
- Appeared on reality TV show Splash!
- Current trade minister
- Divorced Royal Naval Reservist
- Odds: 9/4
Ms Mordaunt’s campaign got off to an awkward start on Sunday with her launch video hastily edited to remove several identifiable figures including athlete Jonnie Peacock and jailed Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Announcing her bid, the international trade minister said the UK’s leadership ‘needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship’.
Ms Mordaunt was Ben Wallace’s predecessor as defence secretary, and the first woman to hold the post before being sacked by Mr Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2019.
The trade minister has many strings to her bow as a Royal Navy reservist and former reality TV contestant, having appeared on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash.
She played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and enjoys the backing of Dame Andrea Leadsom and Michael Fabricant.
Mordaunt’s bid was promoted on her Twitter page, where she has hit back against critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’ amid a row over her stance on transgender rights, insisting she has ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she hit back at opponents
Ms Mordaunt’s bid was promoted on her Twitter page, where she has hit back against critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’ amid a row over her stance on transgender rights, insisting she has ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she hit back at opponents.
Her position as one of the bookies’ favourites to become the next Tory leader has led to a furious row over her stance on trans issues, including her past claim that ‘trans women are women’.
She has been accused of being ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’ and of risking ‘enormous harm to women’s rights and children’.
But Ms Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, used a series of Twitter posts in the early hours of this morning to push back at opponents.
As well as highlighting her past work in Government, including when she was women and equalities minister under Theresa May, Ms Mordaunt also stressed there was a difference between ‘biological women’ and those who are ‘legally female’.
- Foreign Secretary
- Remainer turned Brexit hardliner
- Negotiating with EU over NI
- Loves posing for pictures on Instagram
- Odds: 7/2
The Foreign Secretary kept her powder dry as the Tory top brass turned on the mortally wounded Prime Minister, despite being a Johnson loyalist, though she did cut short a foreign trip to Indonesia to head back to Westminster as he announced his resignation.
But she confirmed long-standing expectations that she would throw her hat into the already crowded ring on Sunday, pledging to reverse the national insurance hike.
Ina video released today she vowed to return to ‘proper Conservative policy’ with tax cuts ‘from day one’ and business rates reforms. She suggested that the £2trillion debt mountain should be put on a ‘longer-term’ footing in order to give immediate wriggle-room.
In her video, she played up her experience at the top levels of government and said the party needs to ‘deliver, deliver, deliver’ to win the next general election.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has already come out in support of Liz Truss
Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, Ms Truss, who has been cultivating support among Tory MPs and enjoys the backing of Julian Knight, Jackie-Doyle Price and Chloe Smith, said she could be ‘trusted to deliver’.
Social media aficionado Ms Truss has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late PM Margaret Thatcher.
She has the experience of working across many Whitehall departments, while her hard line on Ukraine, insisting Russian forces must be driven from the country, and threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU play well with sections of the party.
- Former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Married father of two
- Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee
- Russia and China hawk
- Remain-voting long-term Boris critic
- Has never held a ministerial post
- Odds: 12/1
Not a household name, but among the early contenders.
The multi-lingual chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out, with his declaration made in January, a position he repeated in Friday’s Daily Telegraph, saying he was putting together a ‘broad coalition’ offering a ‘clean start’.
His odds shortened almost immediately as a result.
The former soldier wrote in the paper: ‘I have served before, in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister.’
A Remainer in 2016, he has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson, a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.
Yesterday he provided a punchy response today when – asked about the ‘naughtiest thing’ he’d ever done – the Tory leadership candidate replied: ‘Well, I invaded a country once.’
The former British Army officer looked to draw on his experience in the military – during which he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – as he pushed forward his case to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.
Although considered an outsider in the race for Number 10, as he has not previously been a Government minister, the 49-year-old insisted he had a wealth of experience as a ‘leader’.
Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, vowed to be tough on Russia and China.
He also promised to reverse a hike in National Insurance and to take action on ‘crippling’ fuel duties.
- Former equalities minister who fought against ‘woke’
- A 42-year-old banker with Nigerian heritage
- Has received the shock backing of Michael Gove
- Odds: 12/1
Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch threw her hat into the ring with a plan for a smaller state and a government ‘focused on the essentials’.
The MP for Saffron Walden said she supported lower taxes ‘to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline’.
Writing in The Times, the 42-year-old former banker, who grew up in the UK, US and Nigeria, also hit out at ‘identity politics’ and said Boris Johnson was ‘a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them’.
Ms Badenoch may be considered an outsider for the leadership given the Tory grandees already in the running, but her profile was boosted by an endorsement from Michael Gove on Sunday.
Writing in the Sun the former minister said: ‘As I reflect on what it takes to deliver in government – on the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, the progress I helped secure – I know one thing is true above all. If you want to drive change, empower the right people. Kemi Badenoch has the Right Stuff.’
He went on to say the party needed a leader with ‘Kemi’s focus, intellect and no-bulls*** drive’.