Race to be PM: Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt fight to be in final two

Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. Credit: PA

Conservative MPs will today choose whether they want Liz Truss or Penny Mordaunt to face Rishi Sunak in the final round of the Tory leadership contest, before party members are given the final decision on who should be prime minister.

There will be one last parliamentary ballot this afternoon before the two finalists spend the summer campaigning to be PM - and it's unclear as to who will join frontrunner Mr Sunak in the run-off.

It will be a momentous day in Parliament, with Boris Johnson facing Keir Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions for the last time before Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, announces the result of today's ballot.

Voting opened at 1pm and closes at 3pm, before the result is announced at 4pm.

Boris Johnson chaired his final Cabinet meeting as prime minister on Tuesday and will face his last PMQs today. Credit: PA

Former Chancellor Mr Sunak is almost guaranteed to be in the final after getting support from 118 MPs - just two votes short of passing the threshold, but Ms Truss and Ms Mordaunt are likely to be nervous.

They are battling to pick up the 59 votes made available by the elimination of Kemi Badenoch from the race and Ms Truss is thought more likely to gain the majority of them because of her position to the right of the party.

She's also said to have more momentum after collecting 15 of the spare 31 votes left when Tom Tugendhat left the race, but Ms Mordaunt took just 10 of them.

Foreign Secretary Truss got 86 votes, less than Ms Mordaunt's 92, but she could easily surpass her rival if a majority of those who supported Ms Badenoch went with her right wing ally.

MPs will break for summer recess on Thursday and the two finalists will tour the country, attending hustings events with Tory members, before voting closes at the end of August and the winner is revealed on September 5.

The new prime minister will assumer office on September 6 after Mr Johnson leaves Number 10.

Who is who in the Tory leadership contest?

The ballot results are read out by Sir Graham Brady (third from left) chairman of the 1922 Committee. Credit: PA

The rival campaigns accused one another of transferring votes in a bid to boost their own positions, with David Davis, a backer of Ms Mordaunt, saying it was the “dirtiest campaign” he had ever seen.

“Rishi just reallocated some … He wants to fight Liz, because she’s the person who will lose the debate with him,” the former Cabinet minister told LBC Radio.

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, received a blow in the latest limited polling of the party membership, which forecast he would lose against both of his remaining rivals in the run-off.

Ms Mordaunt, the trade minister, said: “We are so nearly across the finish line. I am raring to go and excited to put my case to members across the country and win.”

She thanked Ms Badenoch, the former equalities minister, and praised her “fresh thinking and bold policies” in a possible pitch to begin winning over her now-floating voters.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

In Spectator podcast hustings on the eve of the final ballot, Ms Mordaunt said the Tory brand had “not been helped by some of the TV formats” as she called for “some positivity and some professionalism” to be restored to the often bitter race.

Ms Truss, who is being backed by Mr Johnson’s most loyal allies, insisted the party’s reputation is “in a positive place”.

Mr Sunak’s campaign focused on polls showing that he could beat Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and “is the candidate the public think would make the best PM”.

Who the Tory membership favours is hard to judge because of the low levels of participation in existing polling.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

But a YouGov survey of 725 party members over Monday and Tuesday saw Mr Sunak losing against all of his remaining rivals by large margins.

The survey put Ms Truss beating Mr Sunak by 54 to 35 and Ms Mordaunt beating him 51 to 37.

Ms Mordaunt, who had been put ahead in recent weeks, was losing to both Ms Truss and Ms Badenoch in head-to-heads by narrow margins.

The current size of the Conservative membership is unknown, but at the last leadership election in 2019 there were around 160,000 members, and insiders expect it to have grown, meaning the polling is not representative of the party.

A spokeswoman for the Truss campaign said: “Now is the time for the party to unite behind a candidate who will govern in a Conservative way and who has shown she can deliver time and again.”

Former Tugendhat backer Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, came out in support of Ms Truss.

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