Tory leadership race to narrow as MPs hold first ballot of contest
Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round.
The race to become the next prime minister is set to narrow as Conservative MPs hold the first ballot of the contest following a week of leadership pitches.
Frontrunner Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were the final two of the 10 candidates to launch their campaigns, as the battle for Number 10 intensifies.
Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated.
Mr Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will “reap the whirlwind” if they try to thwart Brexit – and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October.
But Mr Javid dismissed the former foreign secretary as “yesterday’s news”, saying the party needed to show it had changed.
Former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom insisted she was “very optimistic” about the ballot, and said she thought that she had the support to get through Thursday’s vote – despite a relatively low number of public endorsements.
She told ITV’s Peston: “There’s a whole range of colleagues who for one reason or another don’t want to declare for one candidate or another and I’m very optimistic about tomorrow.
“But tomorrow’s a big day, and we’ll see some real facts tomorrow – before then it’s all just speculation.”
But Mr Harper said: “I’m confident about getting through tomorrow based on the feedback that I’ve had from my colleagues, from my campaign launch yesterday and the various hustings that we’ve had.”
Meanwhile, Labour said it would continue to fight to prevent a no-deal Brexit after the latest cross-party attempt by MPs to take control of Commons business was narrowly voted down.
Ten Tories – including Ken Clarke, Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve – supported the motion, but eight Labour MPs voted against.
Thursday’s ballot is due to take place between 10am and 12pm, with the result due to be announced at 1pm.
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