Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt are the three remaining candidates to be the next UK Prime Minister, after Kemi Badenoch was today eliminated.
Sunak picked up 118 votes in the latest Tory leadership vote, followed by Mordaunt on 92, Truss on 86 and Badenoch on 59.
There will be a final MP vote tomorrow afternoon to decide the top two candidates, who will then face off in a six-week campaign to win the votes of the party’s 200,000 members.
Truss will be hopeful of getting the lion’s share of Badenoch’s supporters, who are also mostly on the right of the party, however there have been rumours that the former Treasury minister could endorse Sunak.
Sunak is currently the favourite to become the next UK Prime Minister, however YouGov polling of Tory members out today shows he would lose by a large margin against both Mordaunt and Truss in the run-off.
However, party polling is notoriously difficult to get accurate and different polling yesterday suggested Sunak would beat Mordaunt and just lose to Truss.
Tory MP and Sunak ally Chris Skidmore told Sky News: “[Sunak’s] two votes away from the final two – 120 is the threshold. I think that looks incredibly realisable given obviously some of Kemi’s team will come across.
“Once he reaches the final two, I have no doubt he’ll impress the membership with his vision.”
Badenoch outperformed all expectations by making it this far into the race and has likely secured herself a cabinet role in the next government, regardless of who is Prime Minister.
One of her key backers was Tory big beast Michael Gove and she ran a campaign that largely pushed her socially and culturally conservative values – i.e. her stance that gender neutral toilets should be abolished.
Badenoch tweeted that “what we’ve achieved demonstrates the level of support for our vision of change for our country and for the Conservative party”.
Truss’ team will be looking to persuade her backers to support the foreign secretary in the next round and pit her against Sunak in a box office six-week campaign.
Mordaunt campaign manager Andrea Leadsom told Sky News that Badenoch “does not command a block vote”.
“Penny has gained support today and that’s brilliant, because it’s from all parts of the party. We are incredibly optimistic about tomorrow,” she said.
Truss backer Ed Argar said Truss has made “steady progress during this campaign in building up her vote”.