Conservative leadership contest: Candidates to be whittled down to the final two

 
James Nickerson
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David Cameron Holds The First Cabinet Meeting Since The UK Voted To Leave The EU
May is favourite to take over from David Cameron (Source: Getty)

The Conservative leadership contenders will be whittled down to two today after the final ballot of MPs.

Theresa May continues to not only lead, but dominate, in support among Tory MPs, with Leadsom thought to be in second place.

Michael Gove, who is widely considered to have betrayed Boris Johnson, is vying to make it through to the final stage, involving a ballot of Conservative party members.

Read more: Another cabinet minister backs May for Tory leadership as country needs "pragamatism" over "dogmatic rhetoric"

Such is the desire of the Gove team to make it onto the final ticket that its campaign manager, Nick Boles, sent round a text message last night to May supporters, urging them to back Gove even if they ultimately want the home secretary to win.

"What if Theresa stumbles? Are we really confident that the membership won't vote for a fresh face who shares their attitudes about much of modern life, like they did with IDS?" Bowles wrote.

Their motive was simply to get him past Leadsom, who continues with more support despite a torrid week.

Read more: The Tories called this referendum – they need to deal with the consequences

She's not only come under close scrutiny for refusing to publish her tax returns until she makes it to the final two, her tax affairs have actually come into question and there is speculation she misleadingly boasted of City positions on her CV.

Robert Stephens, formerly of the investment firm Invesco Perpetual, had said "she didn't manage any teams, large or small and certainly did not manage any funds".

Read more: Leadsom has rejected to publish her tax return ahead of tomorrow's final ballot of Conservative MPs

As well as that Leadsom is untested in a key frontbench position.

However, May's campaign has also come under pressure as she has not pledged to protect the rights of all EU nationals in the EU.

Critics say they are not bargaining chips, while advocates suggest it would be foolish to take it off the negotiating table and will in the end can be used to secure the rights of UK nationals in Europe as well as EU nationals in the UK.

Meanwhile, Gove may well be struggling to get MP support after he appeared to killed off Johnson's bid at the last minute.

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