Penny Mordaunt set to surge as Tom Tugendhat supporting MPs appear to back her

Credit: PA

UPDATE: I’m having to revisit this because I hear about 15 of @TomTugendhat candidates are going to Penny Mordaunt. So she lives again.

And consolidates second place. Sunak gets perhaps seven and gets past crucial 120 threshold. Three or four each to Truss and Badenoch.

If right Badenoch out tomorrow.

ORIGINAL BLOG: The contest for second place in the Tory leadership contest, between Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch, just got seriously bonkers - as I thought might happen after their inconclusive participation in last night’s ITV debate.

Mr Sunak is now into the final knockout stage, where Tory members get to choose between the duo nominated by MPs, barring some kind of extreme accident.

He’s five off the magic 120 that guarantees him a summer of hustings fun or misery, depending on your predilections.

And he will probably be home and dry tomorrow, because it seems pretty likely that most of the 31 backing Tom Tugendhat, who has been eliminated tonight, will transfer to the former chancellor.

Mr Sunak picked up 14 votes, considerably more than anyone else - including at least some of the Brexity right-wing votes that attorney general Suella Braverman tried to pledge to Liz Truss.

Mr Truss, the foreign secretary, picked up just seven votes - just a quarter of what Ms Braverman tried to deliver - but stays in third place with 71. Whereas Kemi Badenoch inched closer to her, with nine additional backers, and a new tally of 58.

The Tory leadership candidates and presenter Julie Etchingham on stage in the ITV televised debate. Credit: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA

Penny Mordaunt remains second with 82 votes, but she has gone slightly into reverse, losing one supporter.

Here is the big news. Ms Mordaunt’s margin over Ms Truss may look comfortable, but she is now going to massively struggle to reach that 120 threshold.

The odds of Ms Mordaunt becoming PM are very slim because the combined vote of Ms Truss and Ms Badenoch is 129 - and that Brexit right-wing vote is likely to coalesce behind one of Ms Truss and Ms Badenoch, either through a formal deal between the two or Darwinian competition.

Or to put it another way, tonight will be the tensest and most important lobbying night Ms Truss and Ms Badenoch have ever lived through. Because in tomorrow’s heat we will have a sense which of those two will be challenging Mr Sunak to be Britain’s next prime minister.

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