Mon, 15 July 2024

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Penny Mordaunt Knocked Out Of Tory Leadership Contest As Rishi Sunak And Liz Truss Go Into Final Run-Off

6 min read

Trade minister Penny Mordaunt has been knocked out of the race to replace Boris Johnson after failing to make it down the final two candidates.

She was leapfrogged by Liz Truss in this afternoon’s final round of voting by Conservative MPs, and the Foreign Secretary will now join former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a run-off of party members to decide on their next leader and Prime Minister.

Having been favourite with the bookmakers early on in the contest, Mordaunt’s campaign faltered after performing badly in the televised debates and faced with a relentless stream of negative headlines about her in and her momentum in picking up supporters had stalled.

After Tuesday’s ballot Truss closed the gap to Mordaunt in second behind Sunak to just six, having picked up 15 votes, the closest the pair had been in any of the four rounds of voting.

After former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was eliminated yesterday the remaining three candidates spent the last 24 hours trying to bring the 59 MPs who backed her over to their camps, with Truss managing to add 27 to see her over the line, and Mordaunt just 13.

The final results were as follows:

Rishi Sunak - 137

Liz Truss - 113

Penny Mordaunt - 105 [ELIMINATED]

In a statement after the result Mordaunt congratulated the two remaining candidates, adding: "We must all now work together to unify our party and focus on the job that needs to be done."

She said: "I am a One Nation, proud Brexiteer. My campaign put forward a positive vision for the country I love so much, remembering who we are here to serve.

"Our mission is not only to deliver on what we promised but to win the fight against Labour at the next general election. I hope to play my part in both.”

Truss said after the result: "I am excited to now take to the country to make the case to the Conservative Party about my bold new economic plan that will cut taxes, grow our economy and unleash the potential of everyone in our United Kingdom.

"As Prime Minister I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the Party and govern in line with Conservative values.

"I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Conservative and Unionist Party and am excited to spend the next few weeks proving to all of our brilliant members exactly why I am the right person to lead it, and our great nation."

A Sunak supporter said they were “very pleased” with “a clear lead” among MPs, saying the ex-Chancellor “will now take his campaign out to the country and set out his key points about restoring trust in the way that government is conducted, rebuilding the economy post-Covid and the difficult international situation”.

They said he can appeal to a broad range of voters across the UK, and contrasting his position with Truss’ desire to cut taxes on day one, they added: “I am very confident that the Conservative party will decide that defeating inflation, fiscal responsibility and sound money has to come before tax cuts.

“Once we’ve dealt with those, then you can deliver tax cuts. But you can’t deliver tax cuts first without defeating inflation.”

On whether the contest will become too heated, the Sunak supporting-MP said: "I think there were some concerns from Conservative MPs following the last two televised debates. But I think when it comes down to the last two, as it now is, both of them will be very mindful that either of them could win, and if they win they have to govern and bring the party together.”

The Truss-backing MP Jonathan Gullis said it was “a good result”, adding: “Let's not forget, she was in third place at the start of the race, so she's had a massive surge in support from colleagues, which I'm really pleased to see. I think it's the right outcome."

On her move to usurp Morduant into second place, Gullis said his “colleagues have been shopping around”, and that “Liz showed in that last debate that gritty side of her, that punchy side of her, which I think gave a lot of people confidence going forward”.

On the tough exchanges between Truss and Sunak he added: "We should avoid blue on blue.

“Liz said in the debate 'thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Conservative'. That's exactly what we should be doing.”

Truss’ team had been confident she was best placed to win more of them round than her rivals, which proved to be the case after the Foreign Secretary moved into second place.

Mordaunt had attempted to hold her off by escalating attacks on Truss, with a source on her campaign saying she would lose the next general election against Keir Starmer's Labour and cost Conservative MPs their jobs.

“Today is about continuity Vs change for the Conservative Party," they said.

"Penny’s been speaking with colleagues already this morning and so many of Tom [Tugendhat] and Kemi’s [Badenoch] backers are calling out for change.

"As the only one not in Johnson’s cabinet, Penny is the sole MP left in the race who offers the party and country a genuine fresh start. MPs, party members, and voters across the country are crying out for something new but only Penny Mordaunt can deliver that.

"Liz Truss will not be able to win a general election and would put MP's seats at risk."

Mordaunt also tweeted, and then swiftly deleted, a link to an article by Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, which is headlined: 'Tory MPs - vote for Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss today and you'll murder the party you love.'

She did receive a boost this morning when she was endorsed by former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation group of moderate Conservartive MPs.

Green had previously backed Tugendhat, who was eliminated from the contest on Monday.

But it was not enough to see her over the line, and it is Truss and Sunak who go on to the second stage of the competition.

They will spend the next few weeks taking part in hustings around the country before the 200,000 Conservative party members choose the winner – and the next Prime Minister – on 5 September.

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