Conservative MPs will reduce the numbers to three this afternoon Rishi Sunak seemingly guarantees a place in the party members’ last runoff – but the race for second place is still too close to decide.
After a slow start, Ms Truss is hoping to build on her momentum from last night’s voting, when she added a further seven supporters to bring her tally to 71.
Tory leadership contest – third round result
Rishi Sunak: 115 votes
Penny Mordaunt: 82 votes
Liz Truss: 71 votes
Kemi Badenoch: 58 votes
Tom Tugendhat: 31 votes – eliminated
Though she’s still missing Ms Mordaunt’s numbers, the trade secretary’s early rise appears to have stalled as she dropped a vote to 82. Kemi Badenoch will be favorite for exclusion today but is still in touch after collecting nine extra supporters to reach 58.
Ms Truss has courted supporters of former soldier Tom Tugendhat, who was downed and eliminated last night, by pledging to increase defense spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030.
“We live in an increasingly dangerous world, where threat levels are higher than they were a decade ago, and we need stronger deterrence to counter these threats and ensure the UK leads on the global stage,” she said.
“Ultimately, that requires more resources. My number one priority is the security of this country and people can trust me to do that.’
But her rivals are also courting Mr Tugendhat, with Ms Mordaunt tweeting that she has “admired” him for years and Ms Badenoch saying he would be an “activity” for any future Conservative government.
As Ms Badenoch left the house this morning, she said there was still “everything to play for”.
Mr Sunak’s team had feared he wouldn’t add much to his tally, but in case they were delighted as he increased his score from 101 to 115.
Anything over 120 guarantees a spot in the bottom two, as there are 358 Conservative MPs in total.
Mr Sunak today sought to step up his support for the Tory right, promising tougher penalties for criminals who refuse to appear at their court hearings and a crackdown on grooming gangs.
He was also bolstered by an endorsement from former leader Lord Hague, who hailed him as an “extraordinary man” who can be trusted at “one of the most difficult times we’ve been Prime Ministers: certainly since 1979, possibly since 1945”. .
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are still in the leadership battle entering the final stages before heading to a Tory members vote
Kemi Badenoch could be the kingmaker who chooses the UK’s next Prime Minister after winning votes in the third round of the Tory leadership race on Monday night
After last night’s drama, the contestants and their allies tried to give their performances the best shine.
A spokesman for the Truss campaign said: “Liz is the candidate to lead a bold new economic approach, cut taxes, reap the benefits of Brexit, unite the party and win a general election.
“Tom Tugendhat has run a campaign of which he can be very proud and he has shown the quality of the Conservative Party.
“Now is the time to get behind the best candidates to bring about the economic change we need.”
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who supports Ms Truss, insisted she had “moved forward” while Ms Mordaunt’s campaign had “stalled and gone backwards”.
However, Ms Mordaunt said her “voice is stable”. “My voice is consistent and I am grateful to my colleagues for all their support and happy to be back in second place. MEPs know I’m a strong candidate, I’m running a really clean campaign and I have a positive vision for the party and our country.
“Tom Tugendhat MP is a friend and colleague who I have admired for years. I know we’re both committed to getting our party off to a clean start, and I think he’s one of the conservative Green Banks’ strongest assets. It was an honor to stand alongside him in this competition.”
Ms Badenoch’s biggest supporter Michael Gove previously snubbed that supporters of some of the leading names were feeling “buyer’s remorse”.
And his contestant said: “It’s all up for grabs. Continued momentum, catching up, I’m the only transferee left in the running. I’m there to win.”
A Sunak spokeswoman said he was “the candidate with the clearest plan to restore confidence, rebuild the economy, reunite the country and because he is best placed to beat Labor in the next election”.
Mr Tugendhat said: “I would like to thank my team, my colleagues and most importantly the British people for their support. I’ve been blown away by the response we’ve received across the country. People are ready for a clean start and our party must deliver and regain confidence in politics.
“I wish the remaining candidates well and look forward to continuing to serve the British people and giving my full support to the next leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the UK.”
The intense intrigue at Westminster came after it was revealed the candidates at this stage have weathered their final TV debate.
The result of the third round was announced in Parliament by the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady
Rishi Sunak has seen his votes steadily increase throughout the competition, but Penny Mordaunt has fallen sharply in the final round
Ms Badenoch said it was “everything to play for” and she was “closing the gap” on her rivals ahead of the next round tomorrow
WHAT THE TORY LEADERSHIP RACE WILL LOOK LIKE
today – A fourth ballot will be held to reduce the number to three.
Wednesday: Assuming no one is eliminated, a fifth ballot decides the final pair, ending the parliamentary phase of the competition.
21 July – MPs will be moving away from Westminster during their summer break.
late July and August – CCHQ will take responsibility for electing leadership and mail ballots to around 200,000 Conservative Party members. The Tory base are being asked to choose between the final two candidates, with Hustings events set to take place across the UK.
5th September – The result of the membership election is announced, with the candidate who receives more than 50 per cent of the vote being declared the new Tory leader and Boris Johnson’s successor as Prime Minister.
September 6th – The new Tory leader is likely to be officially named Prime Minister during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
7th of September – The new Prime Minister is to be questioned in the House of Commons on his very first Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Sunak tweeted: “I would like to thank all the colleagues who supported me tonight.
“Together we can rebuild our economy, secure Brexit and defeat Labour.”
George Freeman, a key Ms Mordaunt supporter, tried to put a brave face on the results and predicted she will pick up “many” of Mr Tugendhat’s supporters after he exits the competition.
He told Sky News: “After three days of being hammered by the media, I’m honestly glad she took second place.
“No one has been as brutally attacked in the Tory press as Penny Mordaunt and her support is strong.
“I think the story tonight is that Kemi Badenoch becomes the heroine of the right, she got a lot of votes.
“I think what you’re going to see now is a lot of that One Nation support base for Tom Tugendhat … I think a lot of them are going to come to Penny as a compassionate One Nation conservative.”
Worrying for Ms Mordaunt, one of Mr Tugendhat’s key allies, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said she expected his supporters to “travel as a pack” to see who they would support next.
And she reiterated her criticism of Ms Mordaunt’s performance as trade secretary, saying colleagues had to “pick up the pieces” while she spent months planning a leadership bid.
“The challenge in our case at the Department of International Trade was that – in a number of situations – she was unavailable to undertake the work that was required in various ways, be it visits or parliamentary duties,” said Mrs. Trevelyan.
Mr Duncan Smith told Sky News that Ms Truss was in “first position” to make the runoff.
“You have to understand how these things work, what happens is – in this round – the ones who go forward will be the ones who benefit in the next round,” he said.
“Liz is definitely in, she’s in the best position to do it. Because there are still many voices sitting there that will probably come to Liz at some point once this is settled.’
Sir Iain claimed support for Ms Badenoch had grown because Tory MPs “wanted to stop Penny”, adding: “Now they have to make a decision about who they want to vote for.”
He urged Ms Badenoch’s supporters to “get together with Liz”.
Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, who supports Mr Sunak, hailed a “very solid result” for the ex-Chancellor.
“We’re optimistic but we won’t take anything for granted,” he told Sky News when asked if Mr Sunak was nailed to making the final pairing.
“If you look at where the votes went, Rishi was up 14 – that was a stronger performance than any other candidate at a time when it was very unlikely that the votes Suella (Braverman) had in exiting the competition unleashed would fall to him. ‘