Tom Tugendhat eliminated from Tory leadership race as candidates whittled down to four
Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports on the third ballot as the appointment of Boris Johnson's successor draws closer
Tom Tugendhat has been eliminated from the Tory leadership race after finishing last in the third round of voting.
In their efforts to appoint a successor to Boris Johnson, Conservative MPs whittled down the contenders to four on Monday.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak got 115 votes, topping the ballot for a third time. International trade minister Penny Mordaunt won 82 votes, foreign secretary Liz Truss 71 and former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch 58.
Mr Tugendhat trailed with 31 votes.
The MP for Tonbridge and Malling said: "It has been an amazing run. I'm incredibly proud of the team, I'm incredibly grateful to all of the supporters that have been with me."
Mr Tugendhat added that he had fought for a "clean start" during his campaign, as that's what the country is "crying out for".
The ballot came after another fraught day of campaigning in the Tory Party leadership contest, despite concerns being expressed publicly about the growing divisions within the party over the contest.
Most notable on Monday was the accusation that Ms Mordaunt missed ministerial meetings because she was plotting her Tory leadership bid.
The trade minister’s absence from meetings forced colleagues to pick up the pieces, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan earlier alleged.
And on Sunday, the five candidates were involved in series of bad-tempered exchanges in the latest TV debate, staged by ITV.
Mr Sunak clashed with Ms Mordaunt and Ms Truss over the economy, while Ms Badenoch and Mr Tugendhat squared off over who had the record and experience to be prime minister.
Many Conservative MPs reacted to the debate with despair, warning that such "blue-on-blue" attacks could weaken their party.
A further debate - hosted by Sky News - was planned for Tuesday, but has been cancelled after Mr Sunak and Ms Truss pulled out.
In a statement, Sky said: “Two of the three candidates currently leading in the MPs ballots, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, have confirmed to Sky News that they do not want to take part.
“Conservative MPs are said to be concerned about the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative Party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party."
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Ms Badenoch, who saw her vote jump from 49 to 58 in the latest round, said she had the “momentum” behind her.
She tweeted on Monday evening: “Continued momentum, closing the gap, I am the only change candidate left in the race. I’m in it to win.”
An MP supporting Ms Truss insisted the foreign secretary was “heading in the right direction”.
Asked about the increase in support for Ms Badenoch, they said: “Liz is absolutely heading in the direction… she’s ahead and she’s heading in the right direction, so that’s good.”
Attorney General and right-winger Suella Braverman, who was knocked out of the contest last week, had thrown her weight behind Ms Truss.
In terms of second place, it's all to play for, as Political Editor Robert Peston reports
That endorsement, however, appears to have not been enough to push the foreign secretary into second place.
Ms Mordaunt will continue into Tuesday knowing that her place behind Mr Sunak remains vulnerable.
After the ballot, she tweeted: “My vote is steady and I’m grateful to my colleagues for all their support and thrilled to be in second place once more.
“MPs know that I’m a strong candidate, running a truly clean campaign and putting forward a positive vision for the party and our country.”
UPDATE: I’m having to revisit this because I hear about 15 of Tom Tugendhat 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.