Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to face Tory leadership showdown after Michael Gove eliminated from race
Boris Johnson will face Jeremy Hunt in the final run-off to be the next Prime Minister after Michael Gove became the final candidate to be eliminated from the Tory leadership race.
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt pipped his Cabinet colleague by just two votes in the final ballot of Tory MPs.
Mr Hunt received 77 votes - 18 more than in the fourth ballot - while Mr Gove's support went up by 14 votes to 75.
It means the Conservative Party's 160,000 members will now decide whether Mr Johnson or Mr Hunt will succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson received 160 votes to further cement his place as the clear frontrunner in the contest.
But the fact that he only put on three votes from the last ballot increased suspicions that his camp had encouraged MPs to back Mr Hunt in order to knock out his arch-rival Mr Gove.
On a day of high drama, Sajid Javid was eliminated from the race at lunch time when he came bottom of the fourth ballot.
Mr Gove is the eighth candidate to be eliminated in the fight for Number 10, following Mr Javid, Rory Stewart, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Esther McVey, Mark Harper and Andrea Leadsom.
In a tweet, he said: "Naturally disappointed but so proud of the campaign we ran. Huge thanks to my brilliant campaign team. It’s been an honour to be able to set out a vision for the future of our great country. Many congratulations to Boris and Jeremy!"
One Gove supporter appeared to suggest some “dark arts” had been at work, expressing surprise Mr Johnson had only picked up three votes from those who had backed Mr Javid previoulsy, suggesting some were “lost on the way” and instead found their way to Mr Hunt.
But his campaign chief, Commons Leader Mel Stride, appeared to suggest his campaign had already “stalled” with the row over his past cocaine use, suggesting that “momentum was lost at the time”.
And Mark Francois, a backer of Mr Johnson, said there had not been a co-ordinated plan to shift votes from his preferred candidate to Mr Hunt.
He said: “As far as I know, there was no organised operation to do that, but I’m not part of the inner team so I can only tell you what I know, which is I think it was plain vanilla.”
Suggesting it will now be a “good clean fight”, he added: “Perhaps if it had been Michael, because of what happened three years ago, it might have been more kinetic, I know think you’re going to have a nice clean contest.”
Jeremy Hunt backer Greg Hands said the Foreign Secretary would not "die in the ditch" if the UK does not leave the EU by 31 October 31st.
He said: "We are oppossed to a no-deal Brexit unless that is the only option available, but equally we want to get a deal, we want to be leaving the European Union."
Mr Raab, who is now backing Mr Johnson, told Sky News: "(Boris) is in a really strong position to go to the country, to go to our membership.
"I think they have a great choice but I think Boris is now in a very strong position, because of course we want to avoid that situation that Jeremy Corbyn is in, where his MPs don't really back him. So I think that will be a powerful argument on top of the others with the membership."
Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt will take part in 16 leadership hustings across the country over the next four weeks, with the winner being announced in the week beginning 22 July.