Sajid Javid knocked out of Tory leadership race as Michael Gove overtakes Jeremy Hunt
Sajid Javid has become the latest candidate to be knocked out of the race to be the next Tory party leader.
The Home Secretary came bottom in the penultimate ballot of Conservative MPs with 34 votes.
In a major development, Michael Gove overtook Jeremy Hunt for the first time in the contest, as he came second with 61 votes, compared to the Foreign Secretary's 59.
The Cabinet pair will now go head-to-head in this afternoon's final ballot to win the right to take on Boris Johnson - who gained 157 votes - in the final run-off.
Mr Gove and Mr Hunt face a race against time to shore up enough supporters before the next vote, with the result announced around 6pm.
The last remaining candidate will take on frontrunner Mr Johnson in the month-long battle to win over the support of the 160,000 Tory members.
Mr Javid is the seventh candidate to be eliminated in the fight for Number 10, following Mr Stewart, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Esther McVey, Mark Harper and Andrea Leadsom.
A source close to Mr Hunt said: "Sajid Javid ran an excellent campaign that has demonstrated the depth and strength of the Conservative Party.
"Jeremy is the best candidate to take on Boris Johnson in the final two and give the party a real choice.
"Boris and Michael are great candidates but we have seen their personal psychodrama before: it’s time to offer the country someone the EU will actually talk to. Jeremy is the candidate who can best unify the Party and deliver Brexit."
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, a major backer of Mr Hunt, said her candidate could still pip Mr Gove to the last place in the final two later today.
“He’s been the strongest performer throughout previous rounds and it will come down to Sajid’s votes, his supporter base," she told the BBC.
“I think that will split a number of ways and people will have been canvassing those individuals but you can’t tell till the votes are in, so for us here in Westminster it’s going to be a very exciting afternoon.”
George Eustice, who is on Mr Gove's campaign team, said: "It was a very good result for us. We’ve been closing the gap on Jeremy Hunt very slowly but very surely in every round…
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, everyone’s going to be working on those Sajid Javid supporters. I think we are well-placed, certainly not home and dry as it’s still very close with two votes in it.”
Mr Gove later congratulated Mr Javid, Tweeting: "Well done @sajidjavid for a brilliant and inspirational campaign. You are a hero and a great friend. You have so much more to give the party and the country in the future."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who had backed Mr Javid, said she was “very sad” the Home Secretary was out of the context and would now be supporting Mr Gove.
In a statement following the defeat Mr Javid said: “I’m proud to have made the case for being a party that heals divisions, protects our precious Union, embraces modern Britain, and beings Conservative values to new audiences. And that my team have navigated this contest in an honest, decent and straightforward way."
“There are very challenging times ahead for our party, our government, and our country.
“The Conservatives must continue to be a broad church if we are to deliver Brexit, bring change while in government, and bear Corbyn at the next election.”