Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak won the latest round of voting among Conservative Party members of Parliament on Monday, narrowing the race to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister to four, with Tom Tugendhat dropping out after receiving the fewest votes.
In the third round of voting, the British Indian former finance minister received 115 votes, with Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt coming in second with 82 votes, followed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss with 71 votes and former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch with 58 votes.
Tom Tugendhat, Tory backbencher and Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, saw his vote total drop from 32 to 31 and was eliminated from the race.
While the top tier of the voting tally has largely remained unchanged, Sunak has gained 14 votes from the previous round of 101, while Mordaunt has lost one vote from 83 in the second voting round last week.
Truss has increased her total from 64, while Badenoch has increased from 49 in the previous round.
The magic number is seen as 120, with the candidate who receives support from at least 120 Conservative Party colleagues guaranteed a spot on the final shortlist of two candidates to compete for Tory membership votes.
The final rounds of voting are being held this week because a third live television debate, scheduled to be hosted by ‘Sky News’ on Tuesday evening, has been cancelled after both Sunak and Truss declined to participate.
The decision is thought to be influenced by the two candidates’ clashes over tax and economic policies as former Cabinet colleagues in the Boris Johnson-led government.
The tension was broadcast live as Truss clashed with Sunak several times during a debate on Sunday, raising fears of damaging Tory infighting.
Sunak took the lead in a post-debate poll, but Truss trailed in last place.
According to the sources, the foreign minister wants to focus on hustings between Tory MPs, who currently hold the majority of votes, and Sunak’s camp has indicated that if he qualifies for the final two, he would be open to more debates.
The cancellation of Tuesday’s debate comes amid Conservative Party concerns about the campaign’s harsh tone.
Former Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said the campaign had been “plagued by allegations of dark arts and dirty tricks” prior to the cancellation of the TV debate.
The senior Tory MP stated in ‘The Times’ that “aggressive briefing and counter-briefing only adds to [Opposition] Labour’s research folders” and would be a “gift to the Opposition.”
The next round of voting is expected to take place on Tuesday, with votes scheduled until only two candidates remain in the running by Thursday.
The final two will then hold hustings across the UK in an attempt to persuade the Conservative Party’s membership of approximately 160,000 eligible voters to cast postal ballots in their favour.
The winner of that vote will be elected Tory leader and will succeed caretaker Boris Johnson as the new British Prime Minister by September 5.