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Sunak wins first round of Tory battle

Sunak wins first round of Tory battle
England's former Chancellor Rishi Sunak. (BBC)

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Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak has won the first round of voting by MPs to choose the next Conservative leader and prime minister.

He got 88 votes, with Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt in second place on 67 and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss third on 50.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt were eliminated from the race.

Those still in the contest face another round of voting on Thursday.

The field is expected to be narrowed to two by the end of next week, and then around 160 000 Tory members decide which candidate they want to become the next party leader and prime minister.

The result will be announced on September 5.

The remaining six hopefuls are now scrambling for support from MPs who backed Hunt and Zahawi.

Sunak, who quit as chancellor last week in protest at Boris Johnson’s running of the government, told the BBC he felt “great” about the result.

Leaving the Commons room where the vote was announced, Mordaunt said she was “very honoured” by her showing.

A spokeswoman for Truss said: “Now is the time for colleagues to unite behind the candidate who will cut taxes, deliver the real economic change we need from day one and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine.

“Liz has the experience to deliver the benefits of Brexit from day one, grow our economy and support working families.”

Tugendhat, a senior backbench MP, tweeted: “This is a fantastic result. I’m delighted to be going through to the next round with the momentum we need to change this country for the better. Our country needs a clean start.”

Meanwhile, Hunt, who came second in the last Tory leadership contest, in 2019, said he had already had his “big shot” at getting the top job, adding that the Conservative Party had an “exciting future”.

But, amid accusations that the contest is becoming more bad-tempered and underhand, he added: “A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates: smears and attacks may bring short-term tactical gain but always backfire long-term.”

Zahawi, who took over as chancellor after Sunak quit, said that role was now his “priority”, adding: “I don’t plan any further intervention, but I wish all the candidates in the leadership contest the very best of luck.”

The contest follows Johnson announcing his resignation last week, after months of criticism over lockdown parties in Downing Street and other issues. (BBC)