Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will be the next UK Prime Minister
Either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will be the UK’s next Prime Minister, after coming out top in a series of Conservative MP votes that finished this afternoon.
Rishi Sunak picked up the most votes in the final round with 137, followed by Truss on 113 and Penny Mordaunt on 105.
The next Conservative leader and Prime Minister will now be chosen by 200,000 grassroots Tory members after a six-week campaign between Sunak and Truss.
Truss said she “would hit the ground running from day one, unite the party and govern in line with Conservative values” if she wins the leadership contest.
A spokesperson for Sunak said he had “a clear mandate from MPs”.
They 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.”
Mordaunt defied early expectations to make it to the top three of the Tory leadership contest and even burst into favouritism with bookmakers last week on the back of a wave of momentum.
A supporter of Mordaunt said the Sunak versus Truss matchup will “be a disaster for the party” and that they will “destroy each other over the next six weeks”.
The pair had a bruising series of exchanges over two recent televised leadership deabtes in which both viciously attacked each other’s economic plans.
“[Truss] will say absolutely anything and Rishi is a star player for the party – you can’t take out a star player like him in a brutal tackle,” the Mordaunt supporter said.
Mordaunt’s supporters have complained that their candidate has been the target of a smear campaign, after a flood of press stories in the past week about the trade minister’s record in government.
Truss has largely been the standard-bearer for the right of the Tory party in the leadership contest and has picked up the support of many Brexiteers, despite campaigning for Remain in 2016.
She has run her campaign with promises of immediate widespread tax cuts and hawkish foreign policy.
Stoke-on-Trent MP Jonathan Gullis said he was backing Truss because “despite being a Remainer, she talks the toughest on Brexit”.
“I especially really like her idea of low-tax zones in parts of the country – I want that for Stoke-on-Trent’s video game industry,” he said.
Sunak was the one candidate in the race who refused to promise immediate tax cuts – as they would likely further fuel inflation – and called other candidates’ plans “fantasty economics”.
A senior Tory MP and Sunak supporter told journalists that “he appeals to people who voted Leave, people who voted Remain, people in the South and people in the North – he appeals to all parts of the country”.
Truss will be favourite going into the six-week contest after topping a poll of Tory members by YouGov yesterday.
However, it is notoriously difficult to get accurate results from party polling.
The foreign secretary is also now the bookmakers’ favourite to become next Prime Minister going into the six-week campaign.