Three remain in Tory leadership race after Kemi Badenoch eliminated

ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports on the latest developments in the Tory leadership race as the candidates vying to be the next PM are whittled down to three

Kemi Badenoch has been eliminated from the Tory leadership race, leaving three contenders battling to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

She received the backing of just 59 Tories, while 118 supported Rishi Sunak, 92 voted for Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss was supported by 86 of her colleagues. There was one spoiled ballot.

Ms Truss appears to have the most momentum, picking up 15 votes on yesterday's result, while Ms Mordaunt gained 10 and Mr Sunak increased his tally by just three.

Who is who in the Tory leadership contest?

The departure of former equalities minister Ms Badenoch was expected, given she was competing against three MPs with extensive Cabinet experience, and she was always considered one of the race's underdogs.

Tom Tudgendhat, who was eliminated from the contest on Monday evening, was another outsider who progressed much further in the competition than had been expected.

Mr Sunak appears guaranteed to reach the final two, as things stand, with Ms Truss and Ms Mordaunt hoping to gain the votes made available by Ms Badenoch leaving the race.

Either Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will be Britain's next prime minister. Credit: PA

In a statement, Ms Mordaunt said she was "so nearly across the finish line" as she paid tribute to her eliminated rival who "electrified the leadership contest with her fresh thinking and bold policies".

One of her supporters - senior Tory Tobias Ellwood - was suspended from the parliamentary party on Tuesday morning after abstaining on Monday's vote of confidence.

A spokeswoman for the Tory whips office said: “Tobias Ellwood MP has lost the Conservative party whip following his failure to vote in support of the government in the confidence vote last night.”

The vote was initiated by Boris Johnson in a bid to show the Labour Party that his MPs had confidence in him remaining in Downing Street until a replacement is elected.

It was held after the government rejected Labour's motion for a Commons vote of no confidence, which could have resulted in a general election had the Tories lost.

The government won with 349 votes to 238, a majority of 111.

Mr Ellwood, a longstanding critic of Prime Minister Johnson - said he is “very sorry” to lose the whip but argued he was unable to return from a meeting with the president of Moldova due to “unprecedented disruption”.

It means the Bournemouth East MP, who had been backing Ms Mordaunt, will no longer be able to vote alongside fellow MPs in the Conservative leadership election.

A Sky News debate scheduled for this evening, designed to give Tory MPs a final chance to assess the contenders before Wednesday's ballot, was cancelled on Monday after Mr Sunak and Foreign Secretary Truss said they would not take part.

The pair tore shreds out of each other during ITV's debate on Friday - as did the other candidates - and consensus among Tories was that "blue on blue" attacks were causing the party too much damage.

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It was considered a gift to the Labour Party, as much of the discussion involved the candidates indirectly criticising their own government's record in a bid to disparage each other.

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."

The final two contenders - selected in Wednesday's ballot - will spend the summer appealing to the Tory party's approximately 160,000 members in a bid to win their votes.

Votes will be counted at the end of August, the winner will be announced on September 5 and take office the following day.