Boris Johnson to square off against Jeremy Hunt in fight for Tory leadership crown - and keys to No.10

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Boris Johnson will face off against Jeremy Hunt in the fight to become next Tory party leader - and next prime minister.

As expected, Mr Johnson topped the fifth and final ballot of fellow Conservative MPs with 160 votes.

And the former foreign secretary will be up against a successor in Mr Hunt, who narrowly beat Michael Gove to make the last stage of the leadership election.

The official tallies from the 313 Tory MPs (with one rejected vote) were:

Boris Johnson - 160 votes

Jeremy Hunt - 77 votes

Michael Gove - 75 votes

The final two will now go out to meet members of the party over a series of hustings events up and down the country over the next few weeks as they press their case to get the keys to No.10.

ITV has announced it will stage the first head-to-head televised debate between the leadership candidates.

It will take place on July 9 and will be hosted by Julie Etchingham.

An estimated 160,000 Conservative Party members will vote in a postal ballot, with the result expected in the week beginning July 22.

The Conservatives said there had been 20,000 applications for places at the 16 members' hustings around the country where Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson will compete for votes.

Mr Hunt, speaking to ITV News after finding out he'd reached the competition's final stage, said he likes to "prove people wrong".

He said: "The way I'm going to win this race is by showing that the best way to Brexit its by sending the European Union a prime minister that they will engage with."

Mr Hunt has consistently described himself as the underdog in the race. Credit: ITV News

In a video posted to social media, Mr Hunt said he is gong to give Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson "the fight of his life" in the contest.

"The campaign starts now, I've got a fantastic team behind me," he said in the video. "We are going to give Boris the fight of his life.

"He needs to be ready for that, because we're going to be going out there and making strong arguments that this is the best way to deliver Brexit, with someone who can go and get a better deal from the European Union, and also has so much else to offer our country."

Earlier in the day, Sajid Javid was eliminated. He polled 34 votes, well behind favourite Mr Johnson, who had secured the backing of 157 fellow Conservative MPs.

Environment secretary Michael Gove snuck into second place, just two votes ahead of Mr Hunt - and there were two spoiled ballots.

The morning voting session had been beset by rumours of dark arts as supporters of Mr Johnson were rumoured to be "lending" their votes to rival camps in order to see off the challenge of Mr Gove.

Mr Hunt tweeted shortly after the result of the fifth ballot had been announced that he was the underdog but that politics always surprises.

Mr Gove said on Twitter: "Naturally disappointed but so proud of the campaign we ran.

"Huge thanks to my brilliant campaign team.

"It's been an honour to be able to set out a vision for the future of our great country. Many congratulations to Boris and Jeremy!"

How the votes added up in the final reckoning. Credit: ITV News

One of Mr Johnson's most passionate supporters since being eliminated from the race himself has been Brexit-backing Dominic Raab, who said Thursday's result sent a "clear message".

He said: "Boris has come out with double the number MPs supporting him compared to his nearest rival, he's got over half the number of total MPs, he goes to the country and the membership in a very strong position.

"Not just on his message; get Brexit delivered - the optimism that he fires up to get us out of this rut but a very clear message that MPs want him to lead them forward and I think that will be a powerful message for our members."

At the suggestion Mr Johnson had supporters lend votes to Mr Hunt to oust Mr Gove, Mr Raab said: "No, I don't think so, Boris and the Boris team have just been focused on his game."

Mr Javid said his party will need Mr Gove "more than ever to face the challenges ahead".

Mr Javid tweeted: "I pay tribute to my friend @michaelgove for his brilliant campaign.

"He is a powerful advocate for Conservative values and has been an incredible reformer in government. We will need him more than ever to face the challenges ahead."

Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said the results were "absolutely fantastic" for her choice Jeremy Hunt and that he is "the best man to unite the country".

She tweeted: "I'm confident that our members will now see that he is the best man to unite the country, deliver a Brexit deal and turbocharge our economy. #HasToBeHunt"

A source in Mr Hunt's camp had earlier warned a run-off between the 2016 adversaries could damage the party.

The source said: "Boris and Michael are great candidates but we have seen their personal psychodrama before: it's time to offer the country someone the EU will actually talk to.

"Jeremy is the candidate who can best unify the party and deliver Brexit."

Mr Hunt himself said his colleagues had a "critical decision" to make on "what choice do we present to the country?"

He said: "Choose me for unity over division and I will put Boris through his paces and then bring our party and country back together."

  • ITV will stage the first head-to-head televised debate between the leadership candidates on 9 July, hosted by Julie Etchingham."