Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt have been knocked out of the Tory party leadership race in the first round, with Rishi Sunak attracting the most votes from his fellow Conservative MPs.
Sunak got 88 votes, with Penny Mordaunt second on 67, Liz Truss in third on 50 and Kemi Badenoch fourth on 40.
Zahawi and Hunt were eliminated as they got less than 30 votes, while Tom Tugendhat and Suella Braverman just managed to pass the hurdle with 37 and 32 votes respectively.
The next vote will be tomorrow, with MPs set to have as many votes as it takes to whittle down the candidates to a final two by next Thursday.
Those two candidates will then fight for the votes of the party’s 200,000 members in a six-week campaign, which will see a new PM crowned on 5 September.
Mordaunt appears to be the big winner from today’s result, with the junior trade minister picking up the second most votes in the first round and finishing on top of a YouGov poll today of Tory members’ preferred PM.
She came out on top against every contender in the shock poll, which pitted contenders against each other in one-on-one battles, and she has now shot to favouritism with bookmakers.
She said during her campaign launch today that she was the candidate “Labour fears the most”.
Sunak’s team said today’s vote was a good result for the candidate.
A spokesperson for Sunak’s campaign said “Rishi has done well today because he is the candidate with the clearest plan to restore trust”, while adding that “every poll shows only Rishi can beat Starmer and is the candidate the public think would make the best PM”.
Zahawi will be disappointed with his results, after he was an early fancy in the contest in the wake of his appointment as chancellor last week.
He said he accepted the position “because I have a passionate vision for the United Kingdom that I want to see” and that he would not make a further endorsement of any of the remaining candidates.
Tory MP and Zahawi ally Jonathan Gullis told journalists that “I don’t think anything went particularly wrong” with the campaign, but that “some people will question” his decision to accept being appointed chancellor as Boris Johnson’s government was collapsing.
Hunt said “it’s clear that our party has an exciting future”, while adding “a gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates – smears and attacks may bring short term tactical gain but always backfire long term”.
The race is now on to pick up the votes from those who backed Zahawi and Hunt in the first place.
There is already speculation that Tugendhat’s camp are in talks to get an endorsement from fellow centrist Hunt.
A source close to Tugendhat said the “results reflect a desire for change and a new face” and that the campaign is focussed on trying to “get Tom on the TV debates where he will shine”.
There will be several TV debates on Friday with the remaining candidates.
There have been calls by some MPs for Braverman – a right-wing candidate – to pull out of the race and give her votes to either Truss or Badenoch.
The three are all gunning for the votes of the right of the party.