Conservative leadership contest: Nicky Morgan backs Michael Gove while Theresa May leads as voting gets underway

James Nickerson
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Michael Gove is seeking the Tory party leadership (Source: Getty)

The pledges are rolling in as the Conservative leadership contest gets underway.

Education secretary has come out backing Michael Gove today, the day after Boris Johnson backed Andrea Leadsom and foreign secretary Philip Hammond backed Theresa May.

Overall, May remains the frontrunner, with more declared pledges from MPs that the other four candidates put together, with Leadsom in second.

However, a recent ConservativeHome poll found that Leadsom had a very marginal lead over May.

Read More: Boris Johnson's five point plan for Brexit

Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb are trailing even further behind. While it looks likely May and Leadsom will go head-to-head, Gove's team is reportedly working hard on garnering the support currently being given to Crabb and Fox, on the proviso that they get eliminated before him.

So what happens now?

The 330 Conservative MPs - those who have both pledged allegiance to a candidate or have kept it private - will vote, with polls open from 11am today until 6pm today.

Results are expected at around 7pm. The candidate with the least votes will be eliminated.

More rounds will then take place on Thursday and then next Tuesday, until there are two candidates left.

Read more: Leadsom has pledged to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK if selected as Conservative Party leader

At that point, Conservative party members more widely will vote on who should become the leader, and therefore Prime Minister.

Some have speculated that an election would be called after the next leader is elected. However, that is not a constitutional requirement (remember when Gordon Brown took the reigns from Tony Blair?).

Last night each candidate was able to state their case during a parliamentary hustings. Gove and Leadsom said they think EU citizens should have their right to stay in the UK protected, while May said the status of EU nationals would form part of the negotiations with the soon-to-be 27-member bloc.

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