RISHI Sunak has edged out Penny Mordaunt to again bag first place in today's second Tory leadership ballot – as Suella Braverman became the latest candidate to crash out.
Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat also clinched enough votes to do battle in the third round on Monday.
Ex-Chancellor Mr Sunak secured his commanding lead with 101 votes after winning round 13 more Tory MPs since yesterday.
Ms Mordaunt gained 16 votes to put her on 83, with Foreign Secretary Ms Truss running in at third on 64, up 14.
Ms Badenoch's support increased by 9 to 49, while Mr Tugendhat scraped through on 32 votes after actually losing backers.
Despite an embarrassing reversal of fortunes, the former soldier insisted he was staying in the race to fight another day.
The field of wannabe PMs was cut down to the final five after a frenzied day of rival camps fighting tooth and claw for every vote.
Ms Braverman flew out of the blocks this morning to urge colleagues to support her after just scraping through the first round yesterday.
The Attorney General refused to abandon her doomed bid and declared herself the one-true defender of Brexit, saying: "We are in this to win it."
Allies of Liz Truss had wanted Ms Braverman and fellow true-blue rival Ms Badenoch to fall in behind her to "unite the right" of the party.
She was quick out of the blocks this afternoon to hoover up Ms Braverman's backers.
A Truss campaign spokeswoman said: "As Liz set out in her speech now is the time for MPs to unite behind the candidate who will cut taxes, deliver the real economic change we need, continue to deliver the benefits of Brexit and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine."
In key developments:
- Brexit hero Lord Frost launched an extraordinary attack on Ms Mordaunt and backed Ms Truss
- Tom Tugendhat suggested he would be the best person to protect Ukraine
- Ms Truss said she did not resign from the Cabinet because she was "loyal"
- Mr Sunak denied he was too rich to be PM
- A poll showed Tory members think taxes are much too high
Voting in the second round of the Tory leadership race opened at 11.30am and closed at 1.30pm.
The candidates who made it through will be put through their paces in a series of TV debates ahead of the third ballot on Monday.
The Foreign Secretary is trailing outsider Ms Mordaunt after she charged into second and Mr Sunak bagged first.
Officially launching her campaign today, Ms Truss insisted she was Tory MPs' best bet to slash taxes and take on the Whitehall blob.
Ms Truss this morning sought to light a fire under her campaign with a launch littered with eye-catching pledges to win round Tory MPs.
She told a room of supporters: "We are at a critical moment for our country. Now is the time to be bold, we cannot have business-as-usual economic management, which has led to low growth for decades."
Pledging huge tax cuts, the Foreign Secretary said she would hold a Budget on day one and insisted she fought against the National Insurance rise.
Quizzed on why she had not quit Mr Johnson's Cabinet along with Mr Sunak and Sajid Javid, she said that she was a "loyalist".
She said: "I am a loyal person. I am loyal to Boris Johnson. I supported our Prime Minister's aspirations."
And Ms Truss refused to bad-mouth closest rival Ms Mordaunt, who she is jostling with for second place and the likely challenger to frontrunner Mr Sunak.
TORY LEADERSHIP RACE – TIMETABLE
WEDNESDAY July 13
– 1.30-3.30pm: Tory MPs voted in person or by proxy in Parliament for their preferred candidate to be the next party leader.
– Around 5pm: The results of the first round were announced by 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady. Both Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt crashed out after failing to reach the 30-vote threshold.
– Straight after: The remaining candidates fielded questions from Tory MPs at the 1922 hustings.
THURSDAY July 14
– Tory MPs voted in the second ballot as the candidate with the fewest votes was eliminated.
FRIDAY July 15
– The remaining candidates go head to head in the first TV debate live on Channel 4 at 7pm.
SUNDAY July 17
– They will then do battle again with a debate on ITV at 7pm.
MONDAY July 18
MONDAY July 18 – The remaining candidates are put before Tory MPs at the third ballot. One more will be eliminated. Sky News will host the third TV debate at 7pm.
TUESDAY July 19 – WEDNESDAY July 20
– Knockout ballots will happen daily until just two candidates are left standing on Wednesday.
FRIDAY July 22
– The final two candidates tour the country trying to win the votes of 100,000 or so ordinary party members who will decide the next PM.
MONDAY September 5
– The results of the vote is announced and Britain's next PM is revealed
Ms Mordaunt's bid for the top job was electrified yesterday when a poll of Tory members put her on course to beat everyone in the final run-off.
She is now the bookies favourite to enter Downing St despite not being in the Cabinet and entering the race as an outside bet.
But a powerful campaign to stop her was underway today, with former Brexit guru Lord Frost mounting a fierce attack on the Trade Minister.
He told TalkTV he had "grave reservations" about whether Ms Mordaunt is fit to lead the country.
Lord Frost said: "I would not feel able to serve in a ministerial team under Penny Mordaunt. That's how strongly I feel about that.
"I felt I had to make that clear today. MPs are voting today and I think they need to know the facts.
"The party has made wrong choices in recent years and I want to make sure we make the right one this time, so I had to make my views clear."
Allies of Penny Mordaunt said she had "nothing but respect" for Lord Frost despite his scathing attack on her.
THE FINAL 5 – WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY PROMISING?
Key pitch: No tax cuts until inflation under control
The former Chancellor has laid out his stall as the candidate for economic responsibility while rivals go gung-ho on tax cuts.
He has promised to cut taxes only when inflation has been brought under control, warning to do so now would just hike prices higher.
- Cut taxes when inflation is down and public finances are repaired
- Plough on with the planned rise to 25 per cent corporation tax
- Keep the Rwanda immigration policy to cut small boats crossings
- Keep defence spending at current levels with no increase
- Publish a manifesto to protect women's rights
- Open the door to scrapping the BBC Licence Fee in the future
Key pitch: Pull funding for Mickey Mouse degrees
Rising star Kemi Badenoch has signalled she wants tax cuts but is refusing to enter the "bidding war" among candidates to slash them the most.
Instead she is serving up a platter of red meat policies that are going down a storm with many Tory MPs.
- Cut taxes and rein in spending
- Opposes Net Zero 2050 target
- Open to the withdrawal from the Euro court
- Reduce funding for Mickey Mouse degrees
- Scrap the Online Harms Bill
- Reduce the amount spent on foreign aid
Key pitch: Tax cuts on day one as PM
Liz Truss is also pledging to cut taxes on her first day in office if she wins the contest.
The Foreign Secretary – who is yet to formally launch her campaign – has also vowed to publicly recognise China's persecution of Uighurs as a genocide.
- Reverse NICs hike and cut taxes from day one
- Reform the Euro court and leave altogether if not possible
- Publicly recognise the genocide in China
- Reduce the size of the state in comparison to the private sector
Key pitch: Halve VAT on fuel immediately
The Trade Minister says she is the candidate that Labour would fear most in a general election.
She has promised to slash taxes and help families by solving the childcare crisis.
- Immediate 50% cut to fuel duty
- Establish a taskforce to address the “paralysis” in the NHS
- Appoint a cabinet minister with responsibility for family policies
- Repeal 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars
Key pitch: Hike defence spending on day one
The Foreign Affairs Committee Chair has painted himself as the “clean slate” candidate for a new and improved low tax, defence focused Tory Party.
He has pledged to slash fuel duty and raise hike up defence spending.
- Spend 3% of GDP on defence
- Establish an Institute of Technology in every major town and city
- Keep the Rwanda deportation policy
- Reverse the NI rise
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