Suella Braverman Backers Moving To Kemi Badenoch In Tory Leadership Race Is Stalling Liz Truss
Liz Truss is hoping to overtake Penny Mordaunt to get into second place behind Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership contest (Alamy)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is not expected to gain ground on Penny Mordaunt in the battle for second in the Tory leadership contest, according to her supporters.
This is despite getting the endorsement of Suella Braverman over the weekend after the Attorney General was eliminated from the race to take over from Boris Johnson.
Truss would have hoped to gain almost all of the 27 MPs who backed Braverman in the last round to switch to her when they vote on a new leader for the third time this afternoon, but several key supporters have indicated they now favour Kemi Badenoch instead.
After the last round of voting, the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak was top with 101 votes with Penny Mordaunt in second place with 83. Truss had 64, Badenoch 49 and Tom Tugendhat 32.
Truss’ campaign had hoped that her improved performance in last night’s ITV debate would close the gap on Mordaunt in this afternoon’s ballot of MPs, with the result expected around 8pm.
But as MPs began to cast their votes, a Truss ally said "we've got good momentum, but not much will change in positions today. There's not a huge number of floating votes”.
In the previous round of voting last Thursday in which the foreign secretary did not gain as much ground as hoped, Simon Clarke, a key Truss backer, told reporters that Monday's vote would be "absolutely critical” and believed there would be a bigger pool of floating voters for Truss to gain.
“The next round, now that feels very different,” he said.
Following Braverman’s exit Mark Francois, the Brexiteer chairman of the European Research Group, urged its members to switch their allegiance to Truss.
David Jones, the former Cabinet minister who chaired the Braverman campaign, also rowed in behind Truss, saying “she has a record of delivery and will be a fine PM”, but other supporters of the Attorney General seem unwilling to do so.
Sir Desmond Swayne, who was the first MP to publicly endorse Braverman after she revealed her intention to stand for leader the day before Johnson announced he was standing down, has switched his support to Badenoch.
Sir John Hayes, chair of the influential Common Sense Group of right-wing backbench Tories, and another original Braverman supporter, who told his local newspaper that he would now back Badenoch.
"Kemi is fresh-faced and brimming with ideas and ability," he said.
"I think we need a fresh start so for all those reasons I am backing her.
"The thing about the process and the way it works is that we get a fresh chance to choose at each round in the process of elimination.”
Tugendhat is expected to be eliminated tonight, and while team Truss will be hoping those MPs backing him will come over to her campaign, they are expected to more naturally align with Sunak.
The odds on the former-Chancellor winning the contest are shortening, though while he is expected to stay in first place with MPs, he may yet not reach the magical 120 mark tonight which guarantees a place among the final two candidates, regardless of further MP votes. The final two will go into a run-off voted on by Conservative Party members over the summer, with the new prime minister to be confirmed on 5 September.
Mordaunt will hope to improve on her previous results, but has been hit by further criticism from a senior Tory figure today following a slew of negative headlines over her record in government.
The international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who is backing Tugendhat for the leadership, accused Mordaunt – a junior minister in her department – of preparing for a leadership campaign long before Johnson stepped down 11 days ago.
“Understandably, perhaps, now it’s clear, Penny has for the last few months spent some of her time focused on preparing her leadership campaign, for which I have utmost respect, that’s how this system works,” she told LBC.
“There have been a number of times when she hasn’t been available, which would have been useful, and other ministers have picked up the pieces.”
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