Truss gains ground on Mordaunt in Tory leadership race

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday closed the gap with Commerce Secretary Penny Mordaunt as they battle to join former prime minister Rishi Sunak in the final leg of the race to become the next Conservative leader.

In latest round of voting Before 358 Tory MPs on Monday, Sunak retained the lead with the support of 115 MPs, up 14 from the previous round of voting. He is just short of five of the 120 needed to secure him a spot in the first leg final.

Sunak’s allies are certain that he is naturally one of two candidates shortlisted by Tory members who will decide the UK’s next prime minister. Final results will be announced on September 5.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs selection committee, was dropped from the race after receiving the support of 31 Conservative MPs, the lowest number.

Mordaunt, unexpected uprising of the contestremained in second place with the approval of 82 MPs, dropping one MP in the final round.

But many Tory MPs believe Mordaunt is losing momentum in the competition after lackluster performance in two televised debates in the past four days. She is expected to struggle to win Tugendhat supporters.

Her place as Sunak’s most likely opponent is under threat from Truss, who is said to have raised her game in Sunday’s debate. She received the support of 71 MPs, up 7 in the second round, although it was not as big a step forward as her supporters had hoped.

Truss’ campaign praised Tugendhat, saying “he could be very proud”, adding “now is the time to go after the best candidate to bring about the economic change we need”.

Kemi Badenoch, a former minister for equality, came in fourth with the support of 58 MPs, an increase of 9 MPs from the previous round. She believes she can still beat Truss and Mordaunt to secure second place.

A junior minister who has never served in the cabinet, Badenoch has catch the imagination of many junior Tory members. A poll by the website ConservativeHome said she would beat all the remaining candidates in the final.

The next two rounds of selection are scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The final two candidates will then be voted on by some 150,000 Tory party members.

The remaining candidates in the race are likely to be eager to get Tugendhat’s endorsement, which may encourage his supporters to follow suit.

He is ideologically closest to Sunak but an ally of Tugendhat said he was not immediately looking to back another candidate. “Tom is not simply going to roll behind someone else. He will support the right candidate who is most closely aligned with his campaign commitments. “

Speaking after the vote, Tugendhat said he was overwhelmed by the response his campaign has received across the country. “People are ready for a clean start and our party must make it happen and put their faith in politics,” she said.

A televised debate on the leadership candidates will take place on Tuesday was cancelled following concerns by Tory MPs that the confrontations are damaging the party’s standing with so-called “blue on blue attacks”.

A Sunak spokesman said: “Every poll shows that only Rishi can beat Starmer and is the candidate the public thinks would be the best Prime Minister.

“The MPs also realized that Rishi has the best experience and plan to deal with the current economic situation. Rishi will rebuild our economy by curbing inflation and bring our economy back to rapid growth.”

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