Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss to become PM after Penny Mordaunt eliminated from Tory leadership race

The search for Boris Johnson's successor is nearing its end, as Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports

Britain's next prime minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, it has been confirmed, after Penny Mordaunt was eliminated from the Tory leadership race.

Former chancellor Sunak was given support by 137 of his Tory colleagues and Ms Truss received 113 votes, but Ms Mordaunt dropped out after only 105 Conservative MPs backed her.

The two finalists now have over a month of campaigning to Tory party members before the winner is announced on September 5.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak tore shreds out of each other during ITV's televised leadership debate on Sunday and dropped out of the Sky News debate after apparently acknowledging how much damaged they could have caused the party.

The pair - two of the Tory party's most senior MPs - criticised each other personally and politically during the debate, leading many to say Labour had been the only winner.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

It's likely the upcoming campaigns will be conducted in a more tame and friendly way that does not attack the government's record, given the winner will face a general election within their first two years as PM.

In a sign of how vitriolic the contest has been Ms Mordaunt, the third-placed candidate, posted a now-deleted tweet this morning in which she told Tory MPs a vote for either of her rivals would "murder the party you love".

In a statement released after her elimination, she acknowledged that politics "isn't easy" and it can be a "divisive and difficult place".

Is Rishi Sunak's tax issue going to be the issue that decides this race?

She added: "Our mission is not only to deliver on what we promised but to win the fight against Labour at the next general election. I hope to play my part in both."

Ms Truss, who is now the favourite to become prime minister, thanked her supporters in a tweet which was mocked online for containing an amusing mistake.

In the tweet, which was swiftly deleted, the foreign secretary said she was "ready to hit the ground from day one", missing the word 'running'.

Liz Truss deleted this tweet and replaced with one containing the word 'running'. Credit: Twitter

Mr Sunak's campaign said he had secured a "clear mandate" from Tory MPs and will now "work night and day" to win the backing of the Conservative membership.

A statement added: "The choice for members is very simple: who is the best person to beat Labour at the next election? The evidence shows that's Rishi."

What now in the race to be prime minister?

September 5 will be Boris Johnson's last day in office, with his replacement moving into Downing Street on September 6.

Parliament breaks up for recess on Thursday (July 21), giving the two finalists until the end of August to appeal to the party membership.

There are around 160,000 members, meaning the next prime minister will be elected by a tiny proportion of the UK's voting age adults.

It's led to calls for the eventual winner to hold a general election in order to gain a fresh mandate, given the huge pull of Mr Johnson's personal popularity causing a landslide in 2019 - but all candidates have ruled that out.

Much of the summer's campaigning will involve the candidates being quizzed in private by party members at hustings events, however there will be at least one televised debate.

BBC will host their debate on Monday at 9pm on Monday, presented by Sophie Raworth.