Former finance minister Rishi Sunak widened his lead in the latest round of voting Monday by Conservative MPs to decide Britain’s next prime minister, but the race to get in the final two tightened.
Sunak won the support of 115 Tory lawmakers, followed by Penny Mordaunt on 82 votes, Liz Truss on 71, Kemi Badenoch on 58 and Tom Tugendhat on 31, who drops out as the last-placed candidate, the party announced.
MPs will keep voting until only two candidates remain, the winner then being decided by the party members.
Mordaunt had been bookmakers’ favourite before the weekend, but lost votes from the previous round.
Foreign Secretary Truss closed the gap to 11 and can probably expect more support switching to her from Badenoch’s backers, should the insurgent candidate be eliminated in the next round, promising a tense race to make the final cut Wednesday.
Television bosses earlier Monday scrapped a planned debate between the remaining contenders for Tuesday night after Sunak and Truss pulled out, said Sky News, which was due to host it.
“Conservative MPs are said to be concerned about the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party,” it added in a statement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on July 7 he was quitting as Conservative leader after a government rebellion in protest at his scandal-hit administration.
He is staying on as prime minister until his successor is announced on September 5.
With inputs from NDTV