Suella Braverman 'to back Liz Truss' after being eliminated from Tory leadership contest

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana has the latest developments in the Tory leadership race, as Penny Mordaunt pulls away from Liz Truss ahead of the televised debates

Suella Braverman will reportedly throw her support behind Liz Truss after being eliminated from the Tory leadership race having finished last in the second round of voting.

The attorney general had 27 votes, five fewer than she had in Wednesday’s first round of the contest, despite the field being smaller on Thursday.

After the second round votes were cast, any candidate falling below 30 backers would be eliminated.

If all won more than 30 votes, then the one with the lowest tally would bow out of the running - meaning at least one MP was always going to exit the contest on Thursday.

The results in full:

Rishi Sunak: 101

Liz Truss: 64

Tom Tugendhat: 32

Kemi Badenoch: 49

Penny Mordaunt: 83

Suella Braverman: 27

Ms Braverman will reportedly now come out in support for Liz Truss after failing to make the next stage in the race to replace Boris Johnson, sources close to the attorney general told the PA news agency.

Leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch said she is “disappointed” that Ms Braverman is reported to back Ms Truss in the race to replace Boris Johnson.

Ms Badenoch told LBC: “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.”

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During her leadership bid, Ms Braverman had argued for cutting regulations, taking the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and for reducing VAT.

She declined to say who she would back in the Tory leadership contest after she was eliminated from the race – but chose to criticise Penny Mordaunt. The MP for Fareham indicated that she would back the candidate who will “stop illegal migration across the Channel”, and deliver “Brexit opportunities”, a “tough line on identity politics” and tax cuts. Asked about criticisms of Ms Mordaunt, Ms Braverman said: “Penny is a very good politician, I disagree with Penny on some key issues, in relation to one specific matter, i.e. the maternity Bill that was passed for my benefit when I had my baby last year. “I do have to say that Hansard and the record shows that Penny Mordaunt as the Bill minister, the minister responsible for passing that legislation, did oppose and did resist the inclusion of the word woman and the word mother and did only concede after unsustainable pressure from the House of Lords."

Liz Truss at the launch of her campaign to be Tory leader, at King's Buildings, Smith Square, London. Credit: PA

Liz Truss’s leadership election have now indicated that many of Ms Braverman’s supporters should now back the foreign secretary, who has received support from Boris Johnson loyalists such as Jacob-Rees Mogg and Nadine Dorries.

“Suella Braverman ran a campaign that she can rightly be proud," a spokeswoman for Ms Truss said. “As Liz set out in her speech now is the time for MPs to unite behind the candidate who will cut taxes, deliver the real economic change we need, continue to deliver the benefits of Brexit and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine."

As ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston notes, Ms Truss needs the attorney general's 27 votes to stay competitive in a race in which Penny Mordaunt has seized much of the momentum.

Ms Mordaunt, who is a minister in the department for international trade, gained the most votes, putting on 16 from Wednesday’s total.

What happens next?

There will be further ballots next week in a bid to whittle down the contenders to just two ahead of the summer recess that begins on Thursday, July 21.

The next round of voting is on Monday.

In the meantime, the remaining contenders go head to head in televised debates on Channel 4, ITV, and Sky News - held on Friday, Sunday and Monday respectively.

All five remaining candidates have now agreed to do the live Channel 4 debate on Friday night.

Then, after July 22, hustings will take place around the country over the summer to help party members determine their choice for the new Conservative leader.

Ultimately, the new prime minister will be announced on September 5, when MPs return to Westminster from their summer break.

An increasingly bitter contest

So far, the race to succeed Mr Johnson has been a competitive and, at times, fractious affair, with Ms Truss' campaign the latest to seize on barbed comments at a rival candidate.

Lord Frost, a former Brexit minister who worked with Ms Mordaunt during negotiations with the EU, claimed he had asked Mr Johnson to replace the PM hopeful.

He told TalkTV: “I am quite surprised at where she is in this leadership race. She was my deputy – notionally, more than really – in the Brexit talks last year.

“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.

“She wasn’t fully accountable, she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was. 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.”

The remarks highlighted by the Truss campaign, with Treasury Chief Secretary Simon Clarke saying: “Lord Frost’s warning is a really serious one. Conservatives – and far more importantly our country – need a leader who is tested and ready.”

The second round of voting took place on Thursday. Credit: PA

Former cabinet minister David Davis, a supporter of Ms Mordaunt, criticised the “black ops” being directed at her.

“I wouldn’t describe it as friendly fire,” he said on Thursday.

“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.”

Mr Hunt’s campaign had also become the target of attacks - before he was eliminated from the race on Wednesday - from Mr Johnson loyalists over claims of manipulation in the contest.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries had accused Rishi Sunak’s team of using the “dark arts” following claims they tried to “syphon off” votes to ensure Mr Hunt cleared the threshold to enter the contest because they believed Mr Sunak would beat him in a run-off vote of party members.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who abandoned his own leadership bid to back Mr Sunak, denied claims from Ms Dorries that the campaign has engaged in dirty tricks.

“Simply, in this case it just didn’t happen,” he said.